I [heart] America


There’s been a lot of hullabaloo this past couple of years because of the Cheeto-in-Chief of the good ol’ U S of A.

What with cosying up to dictators and alienating allies he certainly cuts a divisive figure. Unfortunately, this has had a backlash against America in general and its people.

So, to redress the balance, I wanted to write a positive post about some of the things I love about America. After all, one Mango-Mussolini shouldn’t taint the whole country.

In no particular order…

MUSIC

From Elvis Presley to Tom Waits to the Talking Heads. Who could argue that America has produced some of the greatest artists and genres the world has ever seen. Who are your favourites?

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Next up, MOVIES.

When we think of American movies we tend to think of Hollywood blockbusters. But there are so many unbelievable directors and actors. Here are some of my favourites, who are yours?

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As I have a penchant for the Arts, I’m going to pick out a few photographers who have inspired me over the years.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold

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Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen

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Vivian Maier

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Ansel Adams

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Cindy Sherman

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Saul Leiter

Understandably, most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about advertising. But I do, because I worked in it for 30 years. When Doyle, Dane, Bernbach set up shop in the 1960s they revolutionised advertising. They focussed on simple product truths. Their ethos/philosophy permeated continents and generations. Still does. I had the privilege of working for DDB Dublin.

ADVERTISING

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Leading on from advertising we have GRAPHIC DESIGN, and this iconic classic by Milton Glaser for the New York tourist board. which has been ‘parodied’ a trillion times. (Yes, including me.)

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Milton Glaser

Next up, ARTISTS. Again, a multitude to pick from. Here are a couple of my faves.

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Jean Michel Basquiat

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Edward Hopper

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Mary Cassatt

Moving on to something non art related – LANDSCAPE. America has such a diverse landscape, from snow-capped mountains to sun-scorched deserts.

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I’ve always loved CLASSIC CARS, Mercedes, Jaguar, Citroen, Volvo. But I also love American cars for their sheer ostentatiousness.

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I couldn’t write a post about America without including a few WRITERS. Too many to choose from. Here are a few of my heroes who have inspired me over the years. Recommendations anyone?

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What else do I love about America? I really like their ARCHITECTURE. Whether it be a monumental skyscaper or the traditional colonial white-picket-fence style complete with veranda.

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You won’t get very far in the States without some top-notch tucker. What is more quintessentially American than the humble DINER?

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Who says Americans don’t get irony? They make some fantastic COMEDY and have some wonderful comedians. Obviously, you’re not as funny as us Brits. But you’re getting the hang of it. (Benny Hill.)

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There you have it. Have I forgotten anything, anyone? What would you have included?

Obviously, there is one other thing I would like to give credit to. And that is the American people. (Well, only those that didn’t vote Trump.) You’re an innovative and inspiring bunch. Not only that, you saved our asses in two world wars! So, cheers for that.

My, (our), world would be a lot poorer without you.

 

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Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine.


 

Except she isn’t.

She’s far from fine.

She’s turned 30.

She’s abrupt.

She’s friendless.

She has a massive scar from her temple to her chin.

She has an abusive mother.

Together, with an unlikely friend, Raymond, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a journey of discovery to unlock a hidden, sinister past.

I found it utterly compelling and read it in three sittings. Eleanor Oliphant is such a well-crafted and complex character. She’s funny, she’s intelligent and she’s to the point!

Her story is told with humour and heartbreak. (Yes, I even blubbed at the end.)

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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We all have to die of something.


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You wouldn’t criticise someone of being selfish if they died of cancer or heart disease.

So, why call someone selfish if they commit suicide?

The person doesn’t kill themself of cancer. Just like a person who commits suicide does not kill themself.

Depression kills them.

Do you think the person you know and love wants to leave those s/he knows and loves? To cause them pain and sorrow beyond measure.

Imagine that person in happier times. When they felt normal. Happy even. Do you think they would consider it then? Of course not. It’s pretty absurd to even think it.

How dark must it be in the mind of someone who wants to commit suicide for them to consider it a viable option to ease their suffering?

I am writing this to hopefully help destigmatise mental illness. And also to encourage people who are suffering to try and speak up and ask for help. Whether that be to a friend or family member, your GP or community mental health care unit. (Yes, they have them.) Suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK under the age of 45.

And also to ask people who don’t suffer from mental illness to try and be a bit more understanding. If you think someone you know is suffering from depression, or at risk of suicide, ask them if there’s anything you can do to help. But, please don’t tell them to pull their socks up and get on with it. They’ll probably back off sharper than a hermit crab.

A person who commits suicide isn’t trying to hurt you. They are trying to stop their pain. To stop the disease in their brain.

If you need help try these links. And remember, if things get so bad and you can’t wait, go to A&E they will treat you just like any other patient and get you the care you need.

Mind

Samaritans

NHS

ARC (Local to Stockport only)

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Art for heart’s sake.


I’ve been doing a lot more painting since I began volunteering at Arc.

Since going to workshops, I’ve managed to loosen up a bit. Let go of the hyper-realistic view that we often place on ourselves, yet are happy to discount when looking at other artists’ work.

Anyhoo, I’ve been going through a bit of Basquiat phase. I watched a documentary about him a couple of weeks back. I loved the vivid colours and his strikingly bold, graphic style.

I’ve also been experimenting with collage and mono printing. Feel free to have a goosey. If anything tickles your fancy, drop me a line.

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A bit o’ levity to end/start the week.


Well, I’ve nowt to tell you, so here are some jokey cards.

If we’re pals on Facebook you’ve probably seen most of them before.

Have a good week, folks.

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An ultimatum to the United States of America and North Korea


You are hereby served notice to surrender all nuclear weapons and ICBMs to the Republic of Daveland. You’re far too immature to play with them.

Republic of Daveland

If you do not comply within the next 48 hours I… I mean, WE, will be forced to declare war upon the aforementioned territories.

We will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger… actually, I think that quote has been done.

We’ll knock your bloody heads together, you pair of clowns.

While 7 billion people are bricking themselves about an impending nuclear holocaust, you’re too busy comparing cock sizes.

And we all know who’d win that competition.

Melania.

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The Boating Party with Claudia McGill


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of Q&As with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are one of the most important aspects of our civilisation.

Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy.

Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

Perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where is the creativity that will solve the world’s problems going to come from? Including economic and scientific ones?

In this Q&A, I am delighted to welcome artist Claudia McGill.

I love her bold, graphic style and use of colour. Reminds me of Picasso’s ceramics.

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What has been your greatest personal or career achievement?

I can’t pick out one thing. I’ve been alive for 58+ years and I just can’t pick one thing over another. I won’t even start to speculate or compare, just thinking about trying to do so is unsettling me!

What has been your greatest sacrifice?

Once again, I can’t pick one out. Not because there have been so many to burden me that I can’t choose, thank goodness! but because I think that pretty much, things might have looked bad at the time, had been painful, even life-altering, but in the end, it came out all right, or else somehow I managed, and I have come to believe that this pattern will hold.

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

My husband, who has always one hundred percent supported me in all my endeavors.

Who, or what, inspires you?

I just enjoy pretty much everything about ordinary life – maybe I am easily amused or interested, but I’m always thinking something intriguing is just around the corner, and usually it works out that way.

What makes you unhappy?

Harsh words, intolerant attitudes, and people who do not take others’ feelings into consideration.

What makes you happy?

Too many things to list.

What are you reading?

I read a lot, and mostly I read mysteries. I also like biographies and how-to books. As for the last, I don’t need to want to actually do the how-to of whatever it is; I just enjoy reading about how things are made, done, constructed, etc.

Who, or what, are you listening to?

Usually I listen to audio books; I am not much interested in music. I get the books from my library and I lean toward thrillers. That’s kind of funny because I don’t enjoy reading print version thrillers that much, but having one read to me – I love it.

You’re going on a day trip. Where are you going and what is in your ‘day’ bag?

I might visit a library or go to a park for a run, I can’t decide which. In either case, I’d take a snack or a lunch, some drawing materials, a pen and notebook for writing things down, a sweater (for the library in case of extra-powerful a/c) or extra clothes to change into (the run). Probably a grocery list or items for the cleaners, since I always seem to be running errands wherever I find the time, but that’s not part of the trip, really…

What’s your favourite film?

The Wizard of Oz. My favorite since I first saw it about 55 years ago. What a strong impression it made on me right from the first.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Very easy question! Unsweetened iced tea – since I was a teenager – has been my favorite drink. My addiction picked up after I left school and went out on my own – cheaper to make a pitcher of iced tea than to buy bottles of soda, and at that time, every dime counted. Now, I am very partial to Honest Tea’s green tea. And I like drinking tea from the bottle more than a glass. A very tame addiction, maybe, but it’s lifelong.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

I don’t ever want to go back in time. I’m interested to read about the past, but I don’t want to be part of it.

What frightens you?

High winds; dogs running up to me, even if their owners say they are friendly; being stung by a wasp; being late; eating food past its sale date; I am afraid of the dentist now, or rather, of any pain at all in dental procedures, though I didn’t use to be; I’ve had some recent procedures that tipped the balance. Let me add that my dentist does his best not to hurt me and I appreciate it. I am not afraid of public speaking or most kinds of insects.

What do you do to relax?

Read. Ever since I learned to read, in 1963, I have never lacked for friends, excitement, new horizons…I can pick up a book and everything is all right.

What do you do when you’re angry?

Speak right up and let it out. When I am angry people know it. I don’t like being angry, though.

What can’t you live without?

My husband, my friends, my art and writing activities, and libraries.

What’s your motto?

“Give it a try and see what happens.”

Where is your Utopia?

Wyncote, PA, right where I live now and have for the past 25 years. It’s taken me time to understand it, but somehow, I’ve landed in (or made it into) just the right place for me.

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

Just as I am doing now. I like my life and I don’t long for things to be different. I might make sure I eat more chocolate cake than I do now, though.

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

Really, no one’s, to tell you the truth. I mostly want to go my way and let you go yours.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

The person who knows how to fix it the fastest so I can get out of it. I am not very fond of feeling trapped…

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on some paintings, for a friend, of his house and his dogs, for the art portion of the question. In my poetry writing I continue my Installment Plan Poetry Marathon sessions, in which I spend a scheduled time every week focusing on writing poetry. I am also working on returning to running and my goal is five miles straight – I am making good progress. Maybe in the fall I’ll get there.

What is your ambition?

To take care of my house and those in it, do art, do poetry, exercise, and visit friends. That’s it.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

That chocolate cake would have very few calories and in fact be necessary to maintaining health.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

This one I can’t answer, because I don’t want to make choices and hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe I’d make a list and draw names? Here’s a sign-up sheet…

What would be on the menu?

Chocolate cake. I guess you knew that!

What question would you have liked me to have asked?

I’d loved to have told you about how much I enjoyed working in the cafeteria in college, something people can’t believe, but it is true – and so you would ask me – what did I learn there that I could have learned nowhere else – and I would say, A lot of things, but one tangible skill I have as a result is that I know how to cut a pie into 9 equal pieces.

Thank you Claudia.

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Claudia McGill

Biography

I am a self-taught artist. I came to art later in life. Because of these things, making art for me is not a separate compartment in my life but a thread that runs through everything that I do.

Currently I concentrate on painting in acrylics, but I also spend time working in collage/mixed media as well as doing some hand-built clay, mostly tiles and sculptures. I got my start in fiber art, making pictorial appliqued wall hangings.

Here is a synopsis of some of my activities.

Fiber Art: I did many craft projects when I was growing up, and I learned to knit and sew clothing. I turned to appliqué quilting as a hobby in my thirties, eventually developing a style that used machine sewing to interpret my ideas as collages in fabric.

Collage/Mixed Media: After some years, I wanted to spend more time on composition and less on sewing. I began to experiment with collage, seeing similarities in the artistic process with my fabric work. In the beginning, I created pieces that were usually based on photos I’d taken of landscapes, city scenes, objects, or other images of this sort. I then interpreted them in collage using papers I’d painted myself with acrylic paints.

As time went on my work grew more abstract. I became more interested in portraying feelings, emotions, memories, or imaginings rather than representing scenes. I began to use found papers and materials in addition to my own painted papers and started incorporating painting (in acrylics) as part of the compositions. As well as creating art intended to be hung on the wall, I made and still do make postcards, artist trading cards, embellished art books, etc.

Acrylic Painting: My painting work was an outgrowth of my mixed media art, which familiarized me with acrylics. Painting is now my main artistic activity. My works are inspired by the world I see around me but my intent is not to represent it. Instead, I pick out what appeals to me, set these pieces together as I think they might like to be placed, and concentrate on how it all fits together, color and shape.

Other work: I have done hand-built clay for some time, changing styles as my interests change, but focusing on sculptures and tiles. I’ve recently begun spending more time sketching with pen and ink; I enjoy the focus and observation that go into this activity. I also write poetry and have self-published a number of books.

In all my activities, I work with a sense of purpose and hope mixed together. Making art is very important to me as it is the way I work out answers to questions and guide myself through everyday life.

web site: www.claudiamcgill.com
art blog, featuring current work: https://claudiamcgillart.wordpress.com
poetry blog: https://claudiamcgill.wordpress.com/

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