Monday, April 26, 2010

St. Margaret's Complex Exhibition

The postgraduate students at ECA currently have an exhibition up at St Margaret's Arts Complex, located at 151 London Road, Edinburgh. Any locals are welcome to check out the show, open every day for the next two weeks until 8 May (11-6pm).

Since many of you readers are not local, I am posting pictures of the new paintings that are included in the exhibit. They reflect a somewhat new direction in painting that I have been developing over the last few months. Feedback welcomed!

Inch by Inch, 18x48 inches, oil on canvas

Applause, Applause, each 12x16 in, mixed materials

The pieces reference the influence of sound and music. We seem to have intuitive reactions to hearing songs, melodies and harmonies. We don't necessarily try to interpret or understand them, we feel them or sense them deep in our gut. Is it possible to make a painting that encourages this same kind of reaction from its audience? Anyway, this is one thing I've been wondering and attempting.

I've also been giving consideration to this concept, found in Malcolm Budd's Philosophical Theories of Music and the Emotions (1985):

“Among the various experiences of our senses, tone is the only one that belongs exluseively to life. Light and color, sound, odor, and taste, solidity, fluidity, and gaseousness, rough and smooth, hot and cold, all these are also to be found in non living nature. Only life can produce tones. Living beings out of themselves, add tone to the physical world that confronts them; it is the gift of life to non living nature."


Can anyone figure out what the two titles have in common? Give up?? Both titles are bits of folk song lyrics. First, there's David Mallet's "Garden Song" (Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow...) and then we've got a line from Joni Mitchell's "All I Want" (Applause, applause, life is our cause...) which appears on her landmark album, Blue (1971).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

my pals

As it is Spring vacation, I hadn't seen many of my ECA classmates in a while. One of my classmates held a birthday/flat-warming party the other night so we got to catch up and share some laughs and some cosmopolitans.

Highlight of the party had to be explaining the term "Plumber's Crack" to our friend Megumi, from Japan! Ha ha!

Skye- continued

At the bottom of the Old Man of Storr trail, without a car and infrequent busses, we started walking. And walking. Hoping to get a lift anywhere in the right direction, north.

After about half an hour, who drives by our trail friend Neil and his bus full of tourists. He slows to a halt. "Maybe he'll let us come on his tour of the island for free!" No such luck. He opened the door and threw out 2 MacBackpacker t-shirts!

We were finally picked up by two Scottish rock climbers. I couldn't understand the one's Glaswegian accent so just kept saying "Sorry?" They drove us about 10 miles. Soon after, we were picked up by a kind woman who gave us a talking tour of the island. She pointed out an island where a farmer leads his cows across the water each year, they stay there safe from predators all winter and then walk back across the water when the tides are low. She also explained the curious red and blue spray paint dotting all of the sheep. Each farmer marks his sheep with a spray paint dot on a specific part of the animal. All the grazing land is public, so the sheep are free to graze and frolick together, and can then be easily sorted out at the end of the season.

She dropped us at a tiny museum. The weather was rapidly turning terrible, terrible, terrible, and we waited for quite some time in a dodgy phone booth. Things were looking desperate. Cars were going by, but in the wrong direction. We had an hour to get to the next big town, Uig, where we could catch the last bus back to Portree.

We hear a car coming and look to the east. It's none other than the MacBackpacker bus! Maybe this time he'll take pity on us! Neil gave a wave, and mouthed an "Are you ok?" from the window, but again, no ride.

We saw a couple leaving the museum and approached them with our most desperate faces.

Me: "Hi There, you aren't by chance heading toward Uig?"

Wife: "Yes actually..."

Me: "Would you mind possibly giving us a lift?"

(Husband looks slightly irritated)

Wife: "Sure. Ha! We drove by you guys about 20 miles back and my husband didn't want to pick you up! I yelled at him."

Husband: " Well...ehm...I figured 2 lassies wouldn't have much trouble getting a ride. What on earth are you doing hitch hiking in this weather, anyway?"

The couple got us to Uig. We walked into one of the only bars in town, where the friendly barman immediately brought out chairs for us to hang our "waterproofs" on by the blazing fire. He us made what tasted like the best cup of coffee in the whole world, ever. Our hero.

We got the last bus back to Portree. Now that we were no longer hitching rides, the weather turned lovely and the night came slowly, being so far north. We strolled to the pier and had dinner at a Spanish-style restaurant, Cafe Arriba.

We ended the night at a small pub offering live music. Here we got chatting with two Scots and one of their Austrian girlfriends, who offered to tour us around the island the next day. They had a car! We had been planning to catch an early morning bus, but who could resist the offer? We went to bed tired and happy and eager for another day on Skye.

The morning came with a phone call from one of our new friends. What's the plan? We decided to venture to a place that Neil had told us about on the trail called Fairie Glen. It wasn't on most tourist maps but he had assured us it was the most beautiful place on the island. So away we drove, sun pouring in, Mumford & Sons blasting out of the open windows.

I can't really explain how lovely, how green, how quiet and peaceful, how rugged and romantic and "Scottish" Fairie Glen felt. Skye in general, for that matter. Visit the Isle of Skye on on a clear sunny April day, and you won't want to leave.

I'm not sure the last time I was so happy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Isle of Skye - day one

I recently wrote about missing my car, but there is nothing quite like a long, comfortable train ride through beautiful scenery with a good friend and lots of coffee. There Nell & I were on Monday morning, riding from Edinburgh up to Inverness, then west through the highlands to Kyle of Lochalsh, gateway to the Isle of Skye, our destination for the week.

If you can get past all the crap in the seats, you'll see some beautiful scenery whooshing by.

The train passed hills and valleys and passed tons of sparkling lochs like this one:

After about 8 hours in transit, we arrived. The old woman sitting next to me reminded me not to drink too much Talisker (that's the local whisky). We were now in the small town of Portree, which is the capital of Isle of Skye. I didn't know islands could have capitals, but I guess it is similar to a state having a capital city. We wandered a few minutes up the hill to Mrs. Milne's Bed & Breakfast where her teenaged grandson saw us to our cute, cozy room. We carried on to dinner at a local Inn where we chatted with the bartender about things to do. We turned in early to prepare for a morning hike up to see the Old Man of Storr, considered one of the best spots on the island.

Our first full day started with us missing the bus to the head of the trail because the times were posted wrong. This apparently happens a lot on Skye. So we took a taxi, saving our hitchhiking energy for later.

The hike was incredible. One of the prettiest trails I've been on. Everything was so RICH and fresh looking. Nell and I both kept having the urge to stick our hands in the peaty soil.

The higher we ascended, the less we could see. A thick mist rolled in, and it made the whole area feel totally mystical and magical, as if an elf would pop out and give us directions in the form of a cryptic riddle. Or maybe a fair maiden on a white steed would trot by followed by her dark knight. This easily could have been the trail the Lord of the Rings crew used to get to Mordor. Seriously, all these things kept popping up in my head. It was just so beautiful and cinematic. At one point I made the assertion that "I now understand why people get into live-action role playing".

Hiking the Old Man of Storr on this foggy day, I didn't just want to see a fair maiden on a white steed, I wanted to be the fair maiden on a white steed. Strange, I know.

Whilst singing a chorus to the great Irish folk tune "Wild Mountain Thyme", I heard someone piping in the lyrics from up ahead. Such commenced our friendship with a very jolly, educated tour guide named Neil and his crew of MacBackpacker tourists from Asia, all wearing cute little tennis shoes and colorful Wellies. As we descended, he also introduced us to some of his old college buddies who he had happened upon on the trail. They shared some whisky out of a flask with an engraving of a thistle plant. Oh, Scotland!

From near & far

Thanks to all who voted in the exciting "Where Should Lindsey spend her Spring Vacation" poll. There was a tie between Paris, France & coastal Mediterranean, but in the end, my Spring break has become something else all together: a fun month of visitors from home!

First, my "scholar sister" from Los Angeles, Cynthia, came up to Edinburgh from London. I hadn't seen Cynthia since our Rotary Scholar orientation in Leicester. It was great to host her and show off Edinburgh. We had a mellow day of catching up, strolling around, drinking coffee at the cafe where Harry Potter was written, shopping (I bought new wellies, and Cynth got a furry green Loch Ness monster hat) gossiping, and reminiscing, mostly about the Mexican food in LA. We ended the day cooking dinner at my flat with three other Rotary scholars. We carried on to a local pub and sampled a few whiskies, Cynth couldn't believe how strong the taste was! I guess I'm used to it by now. Cynthia aims to be in Geneve this summer, so perhaps I'll add Switzerland to my ever-growing list of places to visit in continental Europe.

A few days later, my best friend from 6th grade arrived from New York City. It's been such an awesome week. To keep things fresh and "stay-cation" like for me, I made an effort to find some things for us to do in Edinburgh that I hadn't done before. On Nell's first full day, which happened to be Easter Sunday, we went to Crammond Island.

Now, what makes Crammond so unique is the actual journey to get there. Crammond is connected to the mainland village by a narrow cement thoroughfare stacked with triangulated pillars. The causeway appears and disappears in accordance with the low and high tides- so there are only 2 points in the day when it is safe to cross and spend a few hours. If you happen to lose track of time, you're stuck on the island until the next low tide! Quite the flirtation with danger! I love it!

Crammond was once a vacationing island where well-to-do tourists could rent a small house. Then, it became a military defense base during WWI and WWII. Now it is simply a small, lovely island with beautiful views back to Edinburgh, peaceful trails, rocky beaches and the odd abandoned ruin to explore.

Lots of snails, but no sign of any Easter eggs : (

We circumnavigated the island, appreciating the views and open space, and crossed the causeway back to Crammond's tiny harbor. We stayed long enough for a glass of wine at the legendary Crammond Inn before catching the #15 bus back to Edinburgh City Centre. It was an easy little excursion. If you live in Edinburgh, spend your next free, sunny day exploring Crammond Island; it won't disappoint.

Back in Edinburgh, we took it easy the rest of the evening, mostly gearing up for an even bigger adventure the next morning, to the Isle of Skye! I'll sign off for now, but promise to write about that epic journey in the next post.