“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. but in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. the heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment.the heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?” ~ Milan Kundera,
Do you remember the first time you read and watched The Unbearable Lightness of Being? I can’t recall exactly when in my early 20s it was, but i’m sure one of my dozens of journals has an entry of its impact on me at the time. What I love about brilliant novels and inspiring films is that they continually work their magic on you ~ over and over again, you’re never disappointed. Whether it directs you into a new inquiry or idea, or reminds you of a moment of time when you were contemplating love and fidelity, the weight of a relationship or the lightness of a fling, your public versus private self and which is more real. These ideas are so completely relevant and poignant in my 20s as I floated through the world from continent to continent, in my 30s as I got married and started a family, and now more than ever in my 40s as we lead parallel lives as mothers, wives and independent human beings making and doing things. Which me is the real me, and if these various at times contradictory me’s are all part of my identity, what is the balance of weight and lightness that allows for us to move through life with grace…?
My thinking about and around concepts of lightness and weight began when I started cooking, initially prepping at Chez Panisse, with mentors Cal Peternell and Jerome Waag. My collection for Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary, inspired by its food and wine, thought about how we translate this idea ~ literally and metaphorically, into silhouettes. What does a beet or carrot look like in the hands of different chefs? Chez Panisse, COI’s Daniel Patterson’s, blogger and cookbook writer David Lebovitz’s carrots and beets translated through Camino’s Russ Moore. More recently I’ve thought of the process of doing ~ in Tom Wait’s words “how we do anything is how we do everything” ~ and thought about Japan, its coffee, sushi ~ here and there ~ and the now-ness of the act of making, eating ~ and ultimately being in the present moment.
Above ~ Carrots, at Chez Panisse. Center ~ Carrots ~ interpreted in my clothes and by Gabriel Harber. Right ~ Daniel Patterson’s “carrots.”
Above ~ Beets ~ in silk, photographed by Gabriel Harber; Center ~ beets, at Chez Panisse; Right ~ Daniel Patterson’s “Beet Rose.”
Above ~ David Lebovitz’s “carrots, beets and lentils” interpreted by Russ Moore; Center ~ RN74’s Adam Sobel’s spicy cantaloupe and pressed watermelon. Right ~ black truffle grougere with quail egg.
In a conversation on stage at Pixar with Jon Favreau’s CHEF, he spoke of that presence.. quite literally in the act of the ritual of doing prep; of eating sushi at the precise moment it is being cut, sitting at the bar, but also it’s that moment, for “the kid”.. what does it take for us to be present in the moment ~ both metaphorically and absolutely literally, as a parent? How we come to that presence is what we search for in what we do and how we do it. For me it is making a garment, it is eating and sharing a meal with a close friend, drinking a glass of wine, preparing for one of my dinners, spending intimate moments with those that I love. We all come to it in different ways and through different means, and we are continually searching and learning how to get there… “In my 40s, that’s when you’re ready to learn stuff.. not when you’re in school….”, says Favreau.
Below is a visual diary of lightness and weight juxtaposed, in text and images, integrated with a short interview with my dear friend Deb Durant, whose 50/50 LIGHT exhibit is open the month of October 2014 in the old Black Oak Bookstore space, between Chez Panisse and Saul’s in Berkeley…
“Later he told me he had eaten at the restaurant in Nishi-nippori where Mr. Yamada practices the difficult art of ‘action cooking.’ He said that by watching carefully Mr. Yamada’s gestures and his way of mixing the ingredients one could meditate usefully on certain fundamental concepts common to painting, philosophy, and karate. He claimed that Mr. Yamada possessed in his humble way the essence of style, and consequently that it was up to him to use his invisible brush to write upon this first day in Tokyo the words ‘the end.'” ~ chris marker, Sans Soleil.
Above ,Tokyo, Japan ~ left, coffee, Japan style; center, sushi bar with Paul Schrader’s/Mishima’s Mata Yamamoto; right ~ Japan style.
WHY ~ On the idea behind 50/50 LIGHT ~ “This idea is a spin off of ideas behind why one gets married in a public way, with a community around you at such an auspicious moment… It’s the reverse though since I’m giving back to the community. As a culture we don’t celebrate women getting older. We celebrate youth but not age… I want to dispel the myth that we disappear after 50 or become less. Sadly we neglect rituals for such an occasion as turning 50. So 50/50 LIGHT refers to 50 years, but also 50 pieces made over 50 weeks and the concept of half and half. It’s the celebration of collaboration.”
WHO ~ “I chose 25 of my favorite artistic people whom i’ve worked with over a span of time. Over the past 30 years I’ve actually worked with 23 of them.. some knew me when I was 18. and Jessica Williams wanted me to meet and consider Emily Payne who did the yellow rod, and the idea resonated with her.” WHAT ~ “The idea of light. I wanted to take on something that I didn’t know much about. That was very appealing. I learned so much about the scientific qualities of light. Light is a universal topic that one can have many perspectives on, and points of view ~ through metaphor, its physicality. One of my big goals was that I wanted it to feed what everyone was currently doing and to use it as fuel for their own work. and i think the idea of alchemy has an eternal appeal ~ taking base elements and transforming them into something precious…”
WHICH are the BIG COLLABORATIONS/pieces you worked on? ~ “Light as a feather” with Jess Parker is the centerpiece of the show. I wanted the centerpiece to be incredibly complicated but simple.” Jess Parker, on the piece ~ “It goes right to the lightness of being and being playful with life. We took the concept of the feather which is weightless and gravity-defying and we made it in porcelain.. but porcelain can slo be translucent when it’s thin, so it’s a play on light and weight. And the actual act of installing these porcelain feathers and making them look weightless. I make functional pottery with an Asian influence. It has a place on the earth, it lands, and it has feet. This piece took 10 solid months.”
“When we want to give expression to a dramatic situation in our lives, we tend to use metaphors of heaviness. We say that something has become a great burden to us. We either bear the burden or fail and go down with it, we struggle with it, win or lose. And Sabina – what had come over her? Nothing. She had left a man because she felt like leaving him. Had he persecuted her? Had he tried to take revenge on her? No. Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden, but the unbearable lightness of being.” ~ Kundera, Unbearable Lightness of Being
Above, left~ the story and artists behind 50/50 LIGHT. Right ~ “Light as a Feather” by Deb Durant and Jess Parker.
He wrote me: coming back through the Chiba coast I thought of Shonagon’s list, of all those signs one has only to name to quicken the heart, just name. To us, a sun is not quite a sun unless it’s radiant, and a spring not quite a spring unless it is limpid. Here to place adjectives would be so rude as leaving price tags on purchases. Japanese poetry never modifies. There is a way of saying boat, rock, mist, frog, crow, hail, heron, chrysanthemum, that includes them all. Newspapers have been filled recently with the story of a man from Nagoya. The woman he loved died last year and he drowned himself in work—Japanese style—like a madman. It seems he even made an important discovery in electronics. And then in the month of May he killed himself. They say he could not stand hearing the word ‘Spring.'” ~ chris marker, sans soleil
“There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, “sketch” is not quite a word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.” ~ Kundera, Unbearable Lightness of Being
“loves are like empires: when the idea they are founded on crumbles, they, too, fade, away.” Milan Kundera, Unbearable Lightness of Being
“We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under . . . The fourth category, the rarest, is the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers.” Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
“Love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.” ~ Milan Kundera
Above ~ Adam Sobel’s Mille Feuille, interpreted…
“For Sabina, living in truth, lying neither to ourselves nor to others, was possible only away from the public: the moment someone keeps an eye on what we do, we involuntarily make allowances for that eye, and nothing we do is truthful. Having a public, keeping a public in mind, means living in lies.” ~ Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Above, left ~ Paris in Berkley by Deb Durant; Center ~ at Barb Pridham’s beautiful house in Saratoga; Right ~ silk ~ hand painted and raw.
“You know the greatest thing is passion, without it what have you got? I mean if you love someone you can love them as much as you can love them but if it isn’t passion, it isn’t burning, it isn’t on fire, you haven’t lived.” ~ diana vreeland
Above. left ~ Basil flying a kite, Hull. MA summer 2014; Center ~ my work/ceramicist Jessica William’s work, juxtaposed; Right ~ porcelain feathers.
“Creativity is more about taking the facts, fictions, and feelings we store away and finding new ways to connect them. What we’re talking about here is metaphor. Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art, if it is not art itself. Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we are experiencing now with what we have experienced before. It’s not only how we express what we remember. It’s how we interpret it – for ourselves and others.” ~ twyla tharp
(below, a post by Salman Rushdie, who says “Scott Fitzgerald goes further than declining an invitation to cocktail: he conjugates it.”… I remember a moment, years ago, at Chez Panisse, when I worked for Tom Luddy of Telluride Film Festival and was at a dinner with Salman and Phil Kaufman, director of Unbearable Lightness of Being.. and thought how someday i would love to write out the book, and do an installation… that made sense within the context of my life… this is it…)
Sunday, October 12th 2014,
1491 Shattuck, Berkeley, CA
(between Masa’s/Saul’s and Chez Panisse)
“Everything is raw material.
Everything is relevant.
Everything is usable.
Everything feeds into my creativity. But without proper preparation,
I cannot see it, retain it, use it.”
~ twyla tharp