Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Stuff I've learned so far about Demoiselles

Ok, still working on understanding why Les Demoiselles D'Avignon is such a big deal.  The writer of the catalog does a pretty good job of explaining what's going on.  I'm a little unsure of the ethics of posting a copy of it here on the blog so maybe it's better to just go to the link. 

Here's what I've learned so far:
  • The viewer of the painting is brought into the picture as if he or she is actually the subject.  Four of the five women are looking straight at the viewer as if caught in an unguarded moment, while naked in a brothel.  Yikes!  They don't look happy about it. 
  • The painting is supposed to represent the encounter of a young med student with the Demoiselles.  Sorta Scrubs-like except more disturbing than funny.   Probably everyone but me already knew this. 
  • The painting is part of a period in which both Matisse and Picasso were treating the nude in a new way, one that wasn't about seduction or admiration of the female form.  The women in these paintings are more scary than seductive. 
  • The outline of the women on the canvas is like that of a human hand. 

The catalog also goes into detail about Matisse's response to the work, in his painting,  Bathers with a Turtle.  In this work, instead of the subjects confronting the viewer, the viewer joins the the group to look down and respond to the turtle on the ground.  Matisse uses references to classical and mythical works, a continuation in art history as opposed to Picasso's break.

Also found a pretty good Slate article about the show with a slideshow of the paintings, if you want to learn more.  The catalog I've been reading definitely makes Picasso feel like the King with Matisse a kind of a Merlin... but this article has Matisse as the King.  It's a good perspective switch. 

Monday, July 26, 2004

Panofsky's take on my rant

From what I'm reading lately, Meaning in the Visual Arts by Erwin Panofsky (1939), a book recommended by the art professor who wrote the snobby essay:

"The "naive" beholder not only enjoys but also, unconsciously, appraises and interprets the work of art; and no one can blame him [sic etc.] if he does this without caring whether his appraisal and interpretation are right or wrong, and without realizing that his own cultural equipment, such as it is, actually contributes to the object of his experience.

The "naive" beholder differs from the art historian in that the latter is conscious of the situation. [S]He knows that this cultural equipment, such as it is, would not be in harmony with that of people in another land and of a different period. He tries, therefore, to make adjustments by learning as much as he possibly can of the circumstances under which the object of his studies were created. [...] And he will do his best to familiarize himself with the social, religious and philosophical attitudes of other periods and countries, in order to correct his own subjective feeling for content. But when he does all this, his aesthetic perception as such will change accordingly, and will more and more adapt itself to the original "intention" of the works. [...]

As I have said before, no one can be blamed for enjoying works of art "naively" -- for appraising and interpreting them according to his lights and not caring any further. But the humanist will look with suspicion upon what might be called "appreciationism." He who teaches innocent people to understand art without bothering about classical languages, boresome historical methods and dusty old documents, deprives naivete of its charm without correcting its errors."

Hmm.  Okay, I get it.  Although obviously this applies to "foreign" works or to works from long ago (the past is a foreign country, after all), I wonder how responsibility of the "humanist" applies to current work.  I suppose it wouldn't necessarily be different -- in order to get a current piece, there is certainly all kinds of research you can do about it, although you may not have much to work with if the artist isn't well known or available to chat.  And considering the enormous amount of work that is out there, how do you decide which ones to focus upon, to research?  Doesn't that in the end depend on your initial "irrational" subjective response?  

Finally, many folks who have looked on my work have seen something completely different from my "original intention."  When they share this with me and we compare notes, I find myself learning something new about my work and about the person.  I wouldn't say they were "wrong" about my work.  If anything, their interpretation adds to mine.   But I'm one of those goofy subjectivist types probably. 

I'll keep pondering this one.  

Landscape vs. Image

No doubt most of you are much cooler and better informed than I about the Picasso/Matisse show which I never managed to see during visits to NYC. However, I was able to borrow the catalog from my local library (have I yet opined about my love for libraries? Free books for all! What a great, subversive thing).

So here's the biggest idea that has sunk in so far. One of the most fundamental diferences between the two artists is that Picasso was more concerned with the image (to the point that parts of the painting that weren't the subject were often painted quickly and without detail) versus Matisse who was much more meticulous about the whole entire canvas, achieving more of a landscape style, filled with patterns and colors and detail in all areas. Hm. Interesting. I'd have to say my work falls more in the image category.

I'm looking forward to learning why "Les Demoiselles de Avignon" is considered to be the most important painting of the 20th century, whereas Le Bonheur de Vivre by Matisse is considered to be his masterpiece but is not considered to be so revolutionary. More to come.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Sangria Addlement

I've been trying to think clear and interesting thoughts about art, but I fear last night's sangria is interfering with the process.

I went to Tapeo with some co-workers. A very fun restaurant. I love tasting lots of different things, so the whole tapas concept seems to have been designed just for me. Tapeo and Dali, its sister restaurant in Somerville, both make any get-together feel very festive even if you just want a drink. Service is never particularly fast, but both always are friendly, lively places.

Everyone agreed the best item that we tried was the dinner entree, Lomo de Buey a las Frutas, beef tenderloin with dried figs, apricots and prunes in a cream-brandy sauce. Whew. It was like eating beef ice cream and I mean that as a compliment. The sauce was sweet and rich and creamy, a great offset to the intense and fatty beef. Holy cow indeed.

And the food hedonism continues tonight when I go to the Taste of Cambridge Festival as well as some kind of salsa dancing contest. Well, at least I won't be drinking sangria so maybe I'll be able to think tomorrow, just in time for Shakespeare on the Common. Ah Boston. Not such a shabby place to live some weeks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

New template

Nobody panic: I just had to change the template because the other one was being oddly glitchy on me (posts squishing and separating each other). We'll give this one a shot. Stay tuned! Isn't blogging fun?
UPDATE: Back to the old template, and blog is still looking weird (two columns of text, youch). Well, hang in there and hopefully the nice folks at blogger will fix it.
UPDATE: Well, as promised the nice folks at blogspot DID fix it! Thanks! And I went back to the old template. The font is a bit small, so I may fiddle with that at some point. Feedback on how it looks very welcomed!

Breaking News: Dillard Momentarily Stops Navel-Gazing

Believe it or not, in the midst of that outpouring of ridiculous blogging, I had time to watch the movie Surviving Picasso last week.  A pretty good flick.   I was expecting it to be more painful to watch, like the movie Camille Claudel which depressed me for days.  I like movies to have something that makes me glad I watched them, and Francoise Gilot's strength and “survival” of her relationship with Picasso was worth the pain of the horrible relationship.   (Anthony Hopkins does manage to pull this character off, by the way, although it's still hard not to think of him as the stiff British butler in one of my favorite movies.)
On the subject of Picasso, what is it about a great artist that pulls us in?  That is probably the easy question.  Charisma, the magical world they inhabit, the presence of genius.  But what is it about a great artist that so often rejects healthy relationships?  Are they only able to maintain a relationship with their own inner world?  Does it threaten that world too much to connect to another’s? 
Picasso has never been my favorite artist, although of course his enormous fame and genius require my attention.  However, I never connect to his paintings emotionally the way I do with others – they strike me as impressive intellectually but rather cold. 
I plan to continue learning about him.  There’s so much to do!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Good quote illustrating previous post

Found this one on the Whitney Museum website (a great online tour by the way). I had to include it to illustrate my already too long previous entry:
A.M. Homes: The story of me and Mark Rothko is that when I was a kid, my father who's a painter used to go every weekend and look at art in Washington. And I would go with him, and I would sit in museums all over Washington,looking at art for hours and hours and hours, and having this accidental art education, where I would just stare at the painting sitting on benches waiting for him. And in the end it turned out it was really incredibly marvelous. And I discovered Mark Rothko among many other artists. And I think it's in large part how I became who I became. And I think for me, looking at the Mark Rothko paintings was, for lack of a better description, the first time I saw myself in art. I also think it's an incredibly compressed field which always amazes me, that he is able to take everything from horror and ecstasy and pure, sheer rage and the most sublime, delicate, wonderful experience and boil it all down and render it as indivisible. Each element is there and you can't even begin to break apart which ones which.I think that he achieves in his paintings what I'm trying to achieve in fiction, which is that expression of the things that go unseen and unsaid and unarticulated. And I'd never seen anything—color, gesture, texture—represent an emotional experience so fully. So that meant an incredible amount to me.

Yup. What she said.

Art as Communication

Before I get started on my regular art rant, I want to acknowledge that my titles are sounding a bit pompous these days. "Art and Ego," "Art as Quest,"  "Art as Communication."  Blah blah blah. Better titles to come soon, I promise. 
Actually, I am deliberately holding on to the cheesy title because it brings me right into what I was thinking about this weekend.  I was digging through some old college papers and found some art history essays written by Professor DeMarsche in preparation for our junior year class trip to France.  Since I still feel like an amateur in the art history world, I'm always looking for leads on how to get a grip on what "art" means to others, so I settled down to read through his essays from ten years ago. 
I hadn't read far before I ran across some statements that surprised me.  Funny how my perspective has changed since those college days.  I was dismayed to read the following lines that I must have happily swallowed whole as a wide-eyed, innocent  2o year old.
Thus, art in essence is communication.  Like religion it attempts to impose some sort of immutable order over the flux and chaos of an indifferent universe and communicate this order to the viewer.  [...]  People who demand little from life, who seek only to make their physical being comfortable, are never very engaged with questions of existence and meaning and will, as a consequence of this, demand very little from art.  These people usually relate only to the subject matter of a painting and guage the success or failure of a work by how closely it approximates visual reality.  They can be observed briskly walking through the galleries of the Louvre -- doing their bit for culture -- stopping momentarily to giggle at the nudes on the wall or making inane comments about what they like or don't like.  Like little children who lack the intellectual equipment necessary to enjoy art, their moment of transcendental joy arrives when they rest their invariably sore feet and scarf down a chocolate eclair in the museum cafeteria.
Whew.  Oy.  I don't think I've ever seen anyone other than a 12 year old giggling at a nude at a museum.  And what's up with the "invariably sore feet" remark?  Who doesn't have sore feet after wandering around a museum?   This kind of writing about art just burns my beans.  "We are the few special people who are smart and patient and just plain good enough to understand art.  Everyone else, well, they're just barbarians who don't care and don't count."  Feh. 
Yes, I've seen people who look lost and bewildered and/or frustrated at what they see in a museum.   But I think this is true of all of us at some point or another in our experience with art.  Art is often bewildering and weird.  Confusion is probably a more honest response than those pretending that we get it when we don't.   It's true there are people who reject the confusing elements of art, the ugly or the offensive or the weird, who want to dismiss it or even ban it because it points out parts of this world that many of us would rather not think about.  Of course I have a problem when someone rejects art that way.   However, my sense is that the average art museum tourist isn't there to reject or hate the work.  Most people, I would guess and correct me if I'm wrong, want to find some meaning in the works.  They know that they are missing something -- heck, it was written up in the tourbook and it's world famous, so something is going on here -- and they are frustrated about how to find out what this secret is.  Some stop there, shrug and head off to the next thing, and some try to learn more.   Some find meaning in art, some find it elsewhere

Last time I was in NYC, I latched onto a wonderful tour led by a docent at the Whitney Museum where he took us through the American 20th century from Pollock to Gober.  It was one of the few art tours I've experienced as truly educational.  I'm not a good tour-goer; I generally get bored and wander off 1/4 of the way through, so this one really got me.  As we looked at some minimalist work from the 1960s and 70s, the docent described the pieces (most of them manufactured from plastic at a factory) as meant to hide the fact that an artist worked on it at all, and to remain opaque to all but the most die-hard art historian who would be aware that the artist was deliberately rejecting the viewer, rejecting craft, and rejecting all attempts at connection to anyone.  Art is about shifting around the way we think about things, so playing with the idea of telling the viewer to, er, buzz off is an interesting angle.  Subersive, I suppose you might call it.   But troubling too.

It certainly gave me something to ponder, and the more I thought about it, the more it really bothered me.   The idea of an artist rejecting communication, rejecting the person who will interact with it, seems a bit like a chef lacing his desserts with soap or a doctor amputating a healthy limb. 

Yet a lot of art I have seen since that tour seems to be trying to do the same thing.  You could stand in front of the work for years and now get anything from it.  Unless you are "in the know," the work is meant to be inaccessible.  It's this in-joke for only those who are part of some special circle, who know the artist personally.  How on earth is your average tourist supposed to deal with this?  I'd rather eat a chocolate eclair in the museum cafeteria too, invariably sore feet and all.   

I want art to communicate.  At least I want my art to communicate.  I don't want people to have to have read my entire biography to feel a certain "aha" at my paintings.  That aha does not need to come immediately, but I would like them to feel welcomed into my world somehow.  I do want my work to be challenging -- something there for the emotional response and the aesthetic response, but also for the intellect.  And I know it is possible to do all three.  

How do I know this?  In my eighth grade French class, Mme. Harrell showed us a slide show of French Impressionism.  Growing up in a suburb of Pittsburgh among a family not overly keen on art, I'd never seen an impressionist painting before in my life.  Like most people today, I found it easy to love: the color, the light, the pretty subjects.  However, one painting hit me like a lightning bolt, propelled me forward into some place I'd never been before, sent me spinning.  It was one of the holier experiences of my life, encountering this work for the first time.  Yes, it's so famous as to be a cliche now, but to my virginal eyes and even to my now jaded eyes, it is one of the most profound, most beautiful things I have ever seen.  Suddenly, without knowing a thing about the artist or his world, without knowing a thing about art or about France or even much about life, this 15 year old was changed.  I was spoken to by the artist as clearly as if he were there with me, and what he said to me was simply, "Life is beautiful." 

That to me is what art is about.  Something that turns your world on its ear.  Something that encapsulates life so completely that you can barely hold back tears.  Something that hits you in the gut and makes you gasp, and then laugh.  Something that reminds you that you aren't alone.  I wish there were a way that someone could take all of those lost tourists by the hand and talk to them about art, and let them know that there isn't a secret, that there are things there for them.  That it might not be in that museum or even in that city or that country, but there is art that they will love with a passion as fierce as they have ever held for anything in life.  Now that would be a some kind of show, some kind of work, some kind of museum.  I'm not saying a dumbed-down museum.  But a welcoming one.  Is that so crazy?  And maybe they are out there, and I just haven't visited them yet.  I'd be happy to hear about them.  That tour at the Whitney was a good start.

Now that I've railed on and on about the snob factor, Professor D does makes some points that I find very useful.  One of my favorites is his simile that developing taste and discrimination in art works much the way a taste in wine does; only after numerous experiences, we slowly create a visual memory that builds up over years to which we refer when encountering new art.  Sometimes I am so impatient to know everything I can about art, but so much of art is experience and accumulated wisdom.   Ah, the patience factor comes into play yet again.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Bonita the Duck Saga continued!

For those of you who are my regular readers, I wanted to include a quick update on Bonita the Duck, a duckling who seems to have been adopted by a goose family on the Storrow Drive bike path. I have a bit of a shocker to reveal. Last time I saw her I was a bit concerned at her efforts at fitting in, which involved eating enormous amounts of grass alongside her gosling siblings. I don't think ducks were meant to eat grass, so I was pretty worried about how long Bonita was going to last in this world.

Well, as of this morning, Bonita is still alive and kicking, and seems to be growing bigger. But I begin to suspect she is NOT a duck. At this point, she should have started to transform into full duck looks, and she mostly just looks like a much bigger yellow gosling. I am somewhat perplexed. Initially, and with some pleasure I thought, oh how lovely, a swan. (Especially after the increasingly cygnetless swan action that is happening at the Public Garden in Boston). But when I did a little cygnet research, she appears to be too yellow to be a cygnet. So what the heck is she? Her siblings are now full-fledged (albeit smallish) geese, so she is NOT a goose. Or at least not a Canadian goose. Very, very mysterious. I will keep you updated as much as I can. I need to go buy a digital camera so I can capture this stuff and post it here for all you bird experts who might help me. Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Art as Quest

Becoming an artist creates complicated and fascinating emotional states. A wonderful aspect of this is the process of remembering who I am, the essence of Amy-ness, a return to my strange, quirky, six year-old self and her playfulness and curiousity and wonder. Being open to creativity seems to require this return, and it is a joyful reunion for the most part, although the occasional six year-old temper tantrum has indeed popped up.

The part that is odder and weirder is discovering this whole dimension of my life that I had never known existed, outside of a few hints and whispers. All my life I've had mysterious and compelling dreams of a house where I find a hidden entranceway to rooms I hadn't known were there. I would wake with a feeling of gladness they were there, the sense of possibility they offered, and a longing to explore them further and disappointment that I had awakened. It doesn't seem like an overly large leap that this may have been a metaphor for my undiscovered artist self.

(In order to avoid a tangent but in the spirit of blogging and its connection to the larger world, this is relatively common dream topic. My dream also pops up also in Ann Tyler's poignant book, The Amateur Marriage, with an interesting take on what the dream reveals about the person.)

Now that I'm exploring these new rooms in my waking life, well, everything in my dream house is having to shift around some. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that some chaos will ensue.

For one thing, I have found that my mood is alarmingly related to the amount and quality of my current work. This was never a factor I had to consider before. My life was fine and didn't connect to this unpredictable painter person at all -- it's like I've adopted a new pet that must be fed each day or he'll gnaw on my leg until he gets his chow. Like any new pet, my little art monster does make my life richer but also more complicated. Then there's that whole ego thing I already mentioned, where my sense of my ability fluctuates wildly from one day to the next. Then there's the whole exposing your soul to the world -- taking what's inside of me and bringing it out and then hanging it on a wall is not so easy for anyone with a modicum of shyness and desire to avoid pain. The inner ideas long to be shared, but they are also vulnerable and unsure and unanchored. There isn't necessarily a logic or a basis or an explicable reality to them. Sometimes I want to make them more anchored and more understandable and less ethereal, during which the idea usually gets ruined like a seedling torn apart by an amateur gardener.

And there's this magical, bizarre side of finding out about the visions and ideas inside of you that have apparently been waiting to appear for decades (or more?). Who the heck put them there? Why are they inside of me? Sometimes as I look at what I paint and think about life as an artist, it has the flavor of one of those age-old quests or fairy tales. Without asking for it, somebody decided it was my job to carry around and work with this unexpected gift. The quest doesn't necessarily make my life easier -- it brings hairy twists, pitfalls and large, scaly dragons. But like the heroines of yore, I am the only one who can perform this particular task, and to deny it would be my peril, would turn my life to stone. So I've headed off into the forest and there's no turning back now.

So that's the art quest I guess. The burden and the joy of any gift such as this. It's weird to find out that you have it. And even weirder to watch how it transforms your life into something you never imagined.

Art and Ego

One of the first obstacles to becoming an artist, I have found, is claiming the title artist at all. The writer Julia Cameron does a great job of helping artists to tackle that one in a book I highly recommend, called The Artists' Way. The book is well known and available everywhere, so I won't bother with a summary of her ideas. But for anyone who feels stuck in any place in her life, I'd say this is one of the best methods out there to make some serious change happen. I bring her up because this work helped me claim the title of artist, despite all the snooty voices in society and in my own head that say, "Ooooh, so you think you're an artist, huh? What makes you so special?" And I naively believed that once I claimed this title with pride, the little voices would go away.

Well, I was wrong. Turns out this life of the artist struggle is a constant battle with all kinds of sneaky voices to tell you how much you suck. I would think by now I'd be past the point where I question whether or not I have a modicum of talent or something to say. But all it takes is one rejection letter from a call for artists, or even something as trivial as someone's silence when looking at my work (rather than their jumping up and down with excitement), and suddenly I feel like I'm all dried up. And even when I get great positive reinforcement, such as selling a painting, it doesn't last nearly as long as the negative stuff. Why should I care? I know perfectly well my art is for myself. But the external reinforcements (or lack thereof) can affect my work for months.

A friend recently (and rightfully) chastised me for not doing much artwork recently, saying my work was necessary and important. I was ready to give the usual excuses (I'm so busy, it's summer, etc.), but instead I suddenly found myself close to tears at hearing her encouragement. I realized I hadn't worked in a while because I wasn't feeling my work was worthwhile. It's so strange to have somehow made an internal judgement about my work that I wasn't even fully aware of, and this decision had stopped me in my tracks. I know full well that my life works best when I am painting, but it is one of the first things that fall by the wayside when I am feeling discouraged or tired.

It is indeed work to paint, exhausting at times, and it is easier to watch a video or talk on the phone or read a book. But these aren't likely to feed my soul in the same way. I know this perfectly well. Even when I don't have a particular work I'm in the middle of, I need to do something with colors and canvas to stay sane. Just like the saying "you just have to show up at the page," I know I need to show up at the canvas.

I feel lucky that I've discovered this media of self-expression that brings such joy to me (and I hope to a few others). I just need to keep doing it, find some sort of discipline that doesn't feel like discipline that keeps me with the brush strapped to my hand for some amount of time, maybe every day? This feels like part of my growth as an artist -- trying to figure out how to incorporate this new weird thing into my daily life, something that hadn't really been there before in my regular activities.

New Artist Syndrome

I consider myself a new artist, as opposed to a seasoned one. Although I can remember being praised for a drawing I did in kindergarten and most of my high school yearbook entries say something about "good luck with your art," I never really claimed this path for my own until fairly recently, after reading The Artists Way . (I will write a bit more about this book in the next post.)

In the past two years or so, as I've taken this part of myself much more seriously, I am noticing there seems to be an evolution in this way of being. The state of my ego, of my spirit, and of my work all seem to go through a constant transformation. Sometimes it feels like growth, sometimes it feels like going in circles, and often it just feels like pounding my head against a wall. Although I imagine there is plenty of thinking about this, I've been thinking a lot about it recently and decided, heck, I'll blog about it a bit and see if anyone else out there wants to think about it with me. My last post about art got me on a bit of a roll, and writing about it helps me to digest my own thinking. So watch this space for my musings on life as a newbie artist.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Art is Weird

I poked around in my studio yesterday on my day off. Having a little room which is designated solely for creativity is a powerful thing. Flips a switch in my head. On! Go! Zoom!

Within a few moments of arriving I was putting together yet another sculpture, this one similar to earlier work around the topic of women and fundamentalism. The new piece is created with one of those diorama boxes with a glass pane in the front. I started to cram a Barbie in there and started playing with an ancient First Aid Kit I'd found in a closet in my last apartment. I was thinking about the idea of safe ... how being in my old fundamentalist church felt safe in so many ways, protected, this little world where you knew best and you were special because you had the keys to the Kingdom. I had a very specific role and duty, a structure to rely on. Solid ground under my feet, and black and white answers to everything. A comfort, but at the same time it was so suffocating and dull and airless, just like that box. It is a weird feeling, creating this image that represents my feelings when I was 14 years old, now 18 years later. How creating it returns me to that time and place. And the fact that I feel compelled to recreate it, to make this image so that someone else might understand how it felt to be me then. I'm always amazed how this symbol-making happens. It's so instinctive. I certainly did not enter my studio with a plan to make a fundamentalist Barbie box, a Sleeping Beauty Coffin.

That's how art happens to me. When I started playing with the box, this is just what happened with my hands, without any conscious process. I think, hm, what would happen if I cram this in here. And then this. And then this. And then, hey, what happened? What does this mean? And if I put this in, does that make sense? Then I usually get frustrated and tired and weirded out, and I have to set it down and let it all stew for a while. A few days later, I revisit it, and with the space I've gotten, suddenly I see a corner that now needs something new. And it all starts over again. Obsessively working on it, tinkering, fiddling. Putting it aside impatiently and storming away. Tentative return. Over and over again until somehow it is done. Or I just can't bear to tinker any longer. Sometimes that is the same thing. Approaching, withdrawing, looking, not looking. Peeking. Seeing something out of the corner of my eye. Pounce. Yes, no, almost... there.

It's an odd little dance. I'm still getting used to it, still learning the steps, trying to learn how to listen and not force it. I have never experienced any of this before, at least not so consciously. The hardest part is that I'm not really that much in charge of it. It is truly like a dance that way -- and I'm not leading the dance. If I try and lead the whole thing gets strained and stupid and awkward. Only when I relax and let this other thing take hold can we move forward. Consciously trying not to be overly conscious. Whew. I guess that's the best way for me of describing my muse, the possession of creativity.

So the box is waiting now for my next move. I can't do anything on it until it's time. I just have to wait and see. Which, I suppose, is part of the mystery and part of the joy of the whole damn thing.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Sweaty Yoga

It had been far too long since I'd been to a yoga class. I'd taken classes faithfully 3 times a week when I was unemployed, and I loved the class, the teacher, and the way my body felt and looked being so toned from all that muscle work. Now that I'm working again, various obstacles, namely a full time job, a nasty bike accident and the disappearance of my regular teacher, have kept me from getting to any classes, although I do practice a little at home. I find that regular downward and upward facing dogs along with some other stretches really keep me from tightening up like a dried-out rubber band, especially since my bike ride to work can be pretty hard on the calf muscles.

My roommate, an avid yoga practicioner, convinced me to try a class at Baron Baptise Yoga Studio, home of "hot yoga" where the temperature is kept around 95 degrees during classes. The idea is that your muscles are relaxed by the heat, and all that sweating gets the toxins out of your system. I was a little skeptical for two reasons: the idea of celebrity yoga seems a little like marketing prayer or meditation, and gurus just plain make me nervous. Second, getting overly hot and sweaty is usually something I avoid. I don't mind exercise, but I don't relish the idea of dripping sweat in front of strangers or vice versa.

Nonetheless, I headed over this week. It was a standard gym like studio, with yoga-ish music wafting about, places to stow your stuff, and as promised, a very warm temperature. The teacher, Rhea, started going full-speed ahead from the moment she entered the room. And she kicked my butt, yoga wise. It was strenuous, challenging, and very, very sweaty. But once you're trying to stay up with the upwards and downwards and trying not to topple over in the crow, you aren't looking much at your neighbor. When I did sneak a peak with my own hair stuck to my face like straw, there was definitely a lot of sweating and groaning going on. I felt good that I was at least able to keep up. And as the class progressed, I realized I was enjoying myself, and my body definitely was also. I ended the class feeling energized and proud of myself. That was an hour long class.... could I possibly manage the standard 1.5 hours? Would I do it again? Definitely. But I don't think it was the sweaty factor that thrilled my system as much as I was getting my body back in its yoga pace again. We'll see if I can keep this up.

UPDATE: 7/5/04 Went again for 1.5 hour class. It was great! Other than a fleeting sense of nausea, no doubt brought about by dehydration and the large iced coffee I drank before class (oops), I managed to make it though. Man, it was sweat city though. I've never sweated or seen so much sweat around me in my life. Sounds great, no? I mentioned the nausea to my roomie, and she said that was normal. And after a while I'd get addicted to it. The nausea? No, she said, the sweat. Hm.