buckwheatn'grits

"been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down…"

Category: Sights & Sounds

An Update: Been Listening

I have not been updating this blog for many reasons: a demanding (but much-loved) new job, a lot of weaving, and an emotional hell of a winter. It happened gradually. What I thought would be a quick break to allow me to finish up some weaving projects became a several-month-long hiatus. In that time–to my surprise–I have received emails, texts, and in-person requests that I continue the blog. So, though I can’t promise I will update every day as I once did, I am going to place renewed effort in this project I started nearly two years ago. I’ve met a lot of new people making incredible things and shaking up life down here in Durham, North Carolina. I’ve found a lot of beautiful things all over the internet. I’m excited to start sharing them all with you again. I think you’ll love them.

Today though, I offer up an impromptu “Been Listening” post as it seems quite fitting. I’ve written about my good friend’s band The Relatives before on this blog. Recently they wrote and recorded a song inspired by the events in my life the past six months. It’s a beautiful, sad, prayerful song, and I’m so thrilled that something so beautiful has sprung from what has been a pretty painful period. I love being reminded of how talented and wonderful this friend is, and so thankful to have her in my life.

Pushed Around from Relatives on Vimeo.

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Brita Nordgren

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Brita Nordgren is a paper cut and silhouette artist I discovered today while doing some research at my job. Nordgren is based in Durham, and just so happens to be one of the co-owners of The Makery, a small shop in Durham that offers curated, handmade, local goods. Nordgren hand cuts her wonderful paper pieces, as well as creates prints from her cuttings. Her pieces are delightfully intricate. I especially love her beekeeper paper cut piece, as well as her delicate insect silhouettes (though I couldn’t find a usable picture of these). Take a look at her work on her Etsy shop, and keep up with Makery events on their Facebook page.

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Stella Maria Baer

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Stella Maria Baer is a wonderful artist whose work is haunted by the lines and colors of the New Mexico desert where she grew up. Interestingly, she depicts mostly planets and moons on stark, plain backgrounds, but the influence is there nonetheless. She also paints animals and/or people riding on top of other animals. Working from New Haven, Baer works in oils and watercolor and lives with her husband, in addition to pet dog and hedgehog. Trust me, it is worth following her Instagram for the hedgehog pics alone! She is also a phenomenal photographer. Take a look at her work online or follow her Instagram.

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Ganymede (1 of 1)

Mammoth Callisto (1 of 1)

Mars (1 of 1)

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Anna-Wili Highfield

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Anna-Wili Highfield is an incredibly talented Australian sculpture artist who makes life-size animal sculptures out of torn paper. Stitched together from archival rag, Highfield’s work is full of a haunting, dynamic energy. Her pieces are captivating, haunting, mutely exploring the contrast between animate and inanimate. She’s incredibly famous and has done work all over the world–even designing an installation for Hermes’s opening gala in Melbourne–but I’ve only just stumbled on her work.

The daughter of a puppeteer, Highfield has also worked as a scenic artist for Opera Australia and designed both album covers for the band The Broods. She is starting to move into designing practical pieces, like her moth and owl lamp shades, and I would love to see her work move in this direction. For now, I’ll keep my fingers crossed I can one day see some of her work in person.

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Felicita Sala

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Felicita Sala is an illustrator who was born in Italy and grew up in Perth, Australia. She now works from Rome, Italy, where she draws for editorials and children’s books, paints, designs posters, and completes other commissioned and freelance work, including some stop-motion animation. Her drawings are whimsical, joyful, and full of color. They play a great deal with shapes, jumbling them together into piles of beautiful chaos. Her depictions of people are full of humor and love. Some of my favorite work of hers though is one of her more recent series of illustrated recipes. I also love her “3am” series depicting the various people she ran into in the middle of the night wandering around over three different jet-lagged nights.

You can see more of her work on her website. She’s also an excellent photographer, and her blog is worth following for her photographs alone. You can purchase her prints on her page at Society6, where her work is also available on cell phone covers, pillow cases, t-shirts, and tote bags. I had such a hard time picking images for this post because I just love everything she does. I hope you do too!

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Dave Alsobrooks

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If you’re a frequenter of The Parlour in Durham, you’ve seen Dave Alsobrooks‘s screenprinted pieces from his work “New Neighbors” adorning the walls. The series was originally a public art exhibit in 2011. Each of the screen-print and mixed media art pieces was displayed in the gaping windows and doors of abandoned buildings throughout Durham. With the project, Alsobrooks “sought to highlight the unrealized potential of abandoned properties in a historic district neighborhood in East Durham.” Not only did it turn these buildings into beautiful works of art in a city facing great change from booming population, construction, and  gentrification, but the art display also encouraged traffic in forgotten and impoverished neighborhoods, changing the social interactions and topographical maps of the city. You can check out more of his work on his website. This series may seem like old news, but I still think it’s worth thinking about, and Alsobrooks has a lot of other work to investigate as well!

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The Relatives Release: Former Friends

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The Relatives are releasing a new EP this week, one that has been a year and a half in the making. Titled Former Friends, the project consists of six songs co-written by Katie Vogel and Ian Davis. The recordings themselves, though, are part of a much larger collaborative effort, featuring the talents of many other musicians, including drummer Ian Chang, bassist Spencer Zahn, pianist and vocalist Ross Edwards, and additional strings, brass, and back-up vocals by many others. Also of note is the gorgeous cover art done by David Foarde. The official release is Friday, May 2nd and will be accompanied by a party and house show in Ditmas Park with sets by Isaac Gillespie of The Due Diligence and Wyndham Baird. In the meantime, you can listen to their single from the EP, “Love Me,” available now for download and streaming on Bandcamp. The rest of the EP drops Friday! And trust me, I know I’m biased, but I’ve heard the full spunky, alt-folk janglings of Former Friends and it is definitely some of the group’s best work!

Been Listening…

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Chad VanGaalen’s new album Shrink Dust comes out May 29th. However, it’s available for early streaming on Pitchfork and I’ve been listening to it all morning! Self-produced at his home studio in Calgary, Canada, the album is full of VanGaalen’s signature experimental-goodness. Combining beautiful sound with his typically grotesque imagery (as Alex Hudson aptly describes it), the album delivers what fans have come to expect from VanGaalen, while still moving into new territory. VanGaalen has added a new country-twang pedal steel to his instrumental repertoire, plays around with heavily overlaid dissonance, and embraces his home-studio production techniques in a winning way on this–his third–album.

Been Listening…

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Merrill Garbus, performing under the name tUnE-yArDs, has been a perennial favorite since her explosive alt. pop albums appeared on the music scene in 2009 and 2011. Kris and I had the joy of seeing her perform in Charlottesville, Virginia a few years ago, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more energetic show. Her new album Nikki Nack comes out May 6th and I have barely been enduring the wait. Luckily, the album is featured on this week’s NPR’s “First Listen” series, and it lives up to all expectations: simply jaw-dropping pop fare. As always, Garbus hems here between off-kilter chaos and catchy organizing beats rimmed in energetic drum patterns and repetitive loops. Her sound is eclectic, energizing, experimental, and hypnotic. As NPR notes in their write-up, Garbus manages to affirm pop music at the same time that she expresses sincere doubts as to the form’s ability to be artistic and, well, good. Wavering between the cynic and the joyful, Garbus skillfully navigates her captive audience in this phonic exploration. Summarizing his review of the new album, Tom Moon writes, “There’s genius in this ongoing struggle between the orderly and the unknown: Even when it’s hard to tell where she’s going, you follow Garbus, curiosity fully activated. Because more often than not, the haywire swerves lead to the music equivalent of a breathtaking vista — that elusive pop ecstasy that defies description.” In other words, listen up! tUnE-yArDs is here to stay! Listen to the full album on NPR’s First Listen, or pre-order the album on tUnE-yArDs’ site.

 

Words for Strangers

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Words for Strangers is an ongoing performance/guerrilla art project by Hermine Van Dijck. I’ve covered Van Dijck’s weaving on this blog before, but she has many other projects on her plate. This one I find especially compelling because of how it gets to the heart of what art and words should do: connect people–even strangers. Van Dijck’s project basically consists of her writing quotes, thoughts, encouraging notes (it changes with every manifestation) and hanging them on personal property around the city, for instance, bikes, trash cans, fences, and door knobs. It’s a simple idea, and certainly it’s been done before. But Van Dijck designs hers with love and attention, carefully curating the thoughts she wants to provoke in strangers’ minds. And it can be replicated by anyone. In any city. What a simple and lovely project. You can see more of her Words for Strangers photos on Van Dijck’s blog, or read about the project on her website.

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