Dying is a small price to pay to live

You know when you read something, or see something beautiful and inspiring, and something just clicks? I was blog surfing the other day, and I saw this post from one of my favorite blogs, lifesize paperdoll.

An excerpt:

… You look at the sky, you look at your world, you look at everything and realize that dying is a small price to pay to live…

It is. It is indeed.

This is possibly one of the best and inspiring blog posts I have read this week, straightforward and simply stated, yet profound in its implications.

May you be similarly inspired.

Through the Looking Glass

Part of the reason why I want to study in New York City is because I want to immerse myself in the legendary art museums that are around the city. The Metripolitan, MoMa… I have a friend, a studio art major, who grew up in New York City and assures me that the museums are quite an inspiring experience. In my very tiny home state, there is a distinct lack of art museums. The RISD museum, though it has a decent collection, doesn’t really compare to the Met.

This was why, a few weeks before the end of school, my studio art major friend and I planned a trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts during Easter break.

Another reason was to see the highly acclaimed Dale Chihuly blown installation art glass exhibit, fittingly entitled, “Through the Looking Glass.” Dale Chihuly is a glass artist known for his revolutionary designs with blown glass art. His art is not the typical blown glass bottles. Instead, his art is the type that fills a room with a forest of blown glass shapes — truly awe-inspiring.

From the Museum of Fine Arts website:

By 1965, Dale Chihuly was already captivated by the process of glassblowing. Influenced by an environment that fostered the blurring of boundaries separating the various arts, as early as 1967 Chihuly was using neon, argon, and blown glass forms to create room-sized installations of his glass. Although his work ranges from the single vessel to indoor and outdoor site-specific installations, he is best known for his multipart blown compositions. Based in Seattle, Washington, Chihuly works with a team of glassblowers, a process that allows him to work on a grand scale and to explore and experiment with color, design, and assemblage. “Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass” provides an opportunity to see and explore the full range of his artistic achievements by immersing visitors in the beautiful and enchanting environments created through his extraordinary vision.

I had never seen anything like this before. The designs are spiraling, fantastical, and evocative of forests, flowers, and ocean life. My friend and I took plenty of pictures, which do it it little justice. The colors are vibrant, and the displays fittingly used light sources to display the art to their full advantage.

I was a little disappointed that my camera couldn’t fully capture the beauty of these objects. My camera is your typical digital which has trouble adjusting to dark scenes. But here are some of my pictures. The full album on facebook can be found here for anyone interested in seeing more.

For those of you in the Boston area, or anyone planning a trip to Boston this summer, please note that the Chihuly exhibition will be up until August 7.

You won’t be disappointed.

Click photos to enlarge. 

Memories

I’m making lists again. This time it’s one of memories of the Atlantic Music Festival, my first music festival ever, and one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was hectic at times, practicing and getting ready for lessons and concerts (I actually only had one of the latter), but I think I want to go back next year if I can rob enough banks and mooch enough money off my parents and grandparents.

And of course, if I can improve my musicianship.

But the best things that strike me about this music festival is the memories. The little things that happened. The funny things people said that became inside jokes.

In the end, it was a truly inspiring experience.

So here are some of those little memories, in no particular order.

1. Going to McDonalds and waiting at least a half hour for a taxi.

2. Midnight games of Jenga aka Jumbling Towers, accompanied by cookies, chips, and alcohol (which I didn’t drink much of).

3. Stealing cookies from the dining hall for said midnight games.

4. Playing (or in my case listening to) string quartets played just because. And then getting four emails afterwards from administration because of complaints about the noise.

5. Waiting until 10 PM for the practice room sign-up sheets.

6. Amazing concerts.

7. Running around campus taking pictures with a borrowed camera, set to macro lens.

8. Fighting the field hockey camp for food and ice cream every meal.

9. The ice cream party after the last student piano recital. Blueberry ice cream with gummy bears, and taking goofy pictures of each other.

10. FAIL.

11. Solomon dude.

12. Sheridan Seyfried’s Sextet. No. Words.

13. Church bells suddenly echoing while a piece dies away. Quite magical.

14. Friendships.

15. The opera people singing a rendition of the Magic Flute to thank the cafeteria people on my very last night…

And above all, a reply.

hair

Picture taken my brother when I was in Maine this summer. I’m not sure why my hair looks that color. My hair is kind of light-colored even though I’m Chinese and I’ve never dyed or bleached it. It’s not black. In this picture it just looks really, really brown.

Also, excuse the messy braid.

Have a great weekend!

Contemplation 4

(From four weeks ago. Found it in my drafts box and decided to post it. There’s some good memories here.)

It’s really hard to write uplifting, encouraging posts when I’m not happy with the world around me. When nothing is going right. When I’m not doing too well with the tasks I’m supposed to be good at, like music and writing. When my self-esteem isn’t high, and my self-confidence is at a low.

These days, I’ve been so busy with practicing, and trying to get stuff right, and not getting stuff right, and more practicing, and still not getting stuff right. It’s discouraging.

I need to remind myself that I’m very very thankful to be here. Because I am. I am so glad that I’m here. I’m meeting so many dedicated and like-minded people who are also so talented at their instruments (or composing) in addition to being kind. They are inspiring. Not to mention the really brilliant teachers like Bruce Brubaker or Natalya Antonova. I sat in during a lesson with Ms. Antonova, and I love her. Very firm, but clear corrections and she seemed like quite a kind person. (I still think she might have made me cry, anyway.) I honestly love it here. However, I do feel inadequate. As if my skills aren’t enough, and they aren’t. As if I might never reach where I want to reach. That does worry me.

On the other hand…

I think being around so much maturity (whatever, that sounds weird) is making me grow up a little at a time. I’m trying to do better on the honesty front, at least. It’s making me want to work harder, do things better. I’m still held back by my lack of experience and knowledge, though.

For one thing, I’m learning how to carry on intelligent conversations with people.

But let me tell you, sitting down at a piano and improvising something pretty, if imperfect, is an excellent feeling. Right up there with getting the piece I’m actually supposed to be working on right.

Oh, and I had a day maker. An opera student said to me, “I feel so happy whenever I see you. I see you, and then I just feel so happy and good about life. You make me feel so happy.”

Or something to that effect. It did make me happy.

Gotta love those opera students. 😉

(To clarify, she was not my student. We were both students in different programs in the music festival.)

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

The Sixth Station

This picture just reminds me of the scene in Spirited Away where the main character, Chihiro, goes on a train ride across the spirit world, to go see Yubaba’s sister Zeniba about a way to help Haku recover from his injuries due to her curse.

I especially remember the shadow people who would get on and off the train. They had no form, and one could not see their faces… one thing I do remember is that they seemed sad. At the same time, there was a resignation to the scene that was the most heartbreaking.

Getting on the train, getting off the train. Getting on the train, getting off and facing desolation. You get the sense that this really isn’t what they wanted.

As if their whole lives were a slow, automatic disaster of falling behind and catching up, and after a while they really didn’t care anymore. Hunched over to keep out the cold, but the cold had already found them.

And then falling into silence…

I wonder if they could ever find their way back, or if they just lived the rest of their lives in silence and formlessness, never being able to find their way home?

Soundtrack here. It’s beautiful. And if you haven’t ever watched the movie, go watch it right now.

Picture is from flickr, Creative Commons license. Used with permission. Thank you for reading and listening.

Of Beauty in Visual Art

“As an “artist” what or who inspires you?”

My reply to the question:

“As someone who tries to make music, what inspires me is beautiful things – natural beauty, beautiful music, beautiful writing, and that beauty which can often times be found in brokenness.”

Drawn by a 3 year old. Darth Vader is... happy?

When I was a little girl, my mother often asked me to write letters to our relatives who lived overseas. An integral part of these letters were the drawings my siblings and I were supposed to draw on the letter backs. My mother was often dissatisfied at my clumsy attempts to draw things. “What is that brown thing?”

“It’s a tree,” I would reply.

“Redo it,” she’d say. “It doesn’t look anything like a tree.”

Even years later, my own attempts at drawing resulted in some uneven stick figures with lump heads and straggly hair. Forget about coloring! My attempts to color anything usually turned out disastrous. I don’t have a good sense of how to color, so for example, my trees would have poo colored trunks and bluish-greenish leaves. All solid color, because while I knew about shading, somehow I couldn’t translate that to drawing things in color rather than in lead pencil. Pathetic, right?

Random picture of a tree

And so, being someone rather untalented in the visual arts department, I have always admired people who can produce beautiful paintings or drawings or photographs. I admire people who are knowledgeable about things like shading and contrast and perspective and dimensions and clarity because these are things that I have trouble grasping when I have a still life and a pencil and a pad of paper in front of me. Or even a camera.

At the same time, I love visiting art museums. I love viewing art that makes use of all these things, and many more, besides. I appreciate the value, not to mention inspiration that visual art can bring, which is why I always add photos from Flickr’s Creative Commons section to my blog posts. The pictures can enhance the writing by also giving the reader a mental image about what I’m writing. They’re also excellent for color, so that the reader isn’t reading paragraph after paragraph of black and white print. At the same time, they do not serve as distractions. I can also say that they’re inspiring. If I need some inspiration for writing or something else, it helps to look at beautiful pictures. Especially with Flickr and Photobucket and even Google Image searches, it’s not that hard to find something, though with Google, I’d be afraid of finding nekkid ladies. I have two Facebook friends, avid photographers, with a great deal of talent in capturing faces, scenes, nature, or the cheesecake they had at Pastiche. (Here’s one of them. This is her Facebook business page).

But what makes these pieces of art so inspiring to many of us?

I met one of those photographer friends while taking driver’s ed at the local high school, several years ago. She was pretty, had brown curly hair, a nice smile, and always arrived late. One thing I noticed about her is that she always carried a camera around with her. “Oh, that’s a beautiful sunset! Got to take a picture of that.” “Oh, look at those geese!”

Whenever she whipped her camera out, she seemed to be caught up in rapturous delight. It didn’t matter if it was something as thrilling as a gorgeous sunset, or as mundane as a flock of geese sitting out in a field.

I later became her Facebook friend, and saw those same pictures. I soon learned that she approached the world with this wide-eyed look of almost child-like wonder. She saw beauty in what we’d think would be the most ordinary objects. She saw beauty in people. Everyone had good inside of them. It seemed that she faced the world head-on with this attitude of love and acceptance. This didn’t mean that she couldn’t see the ugliness and injustice that was out there. She saw it — and resolved to make a change in the world.

She had good eyes in the same way that one would describe musicians as having good ears. Where musicians have an affinity for showing others the beauty in sounds, she had an affinity for color and scenes, for seeing the world in a special way. Through her camera lenses, she inspired people to search for beauty and find it in the most seemingly ordinary of things — from a broken window to simple footprints in the snow to someone’s hands on a rusty fence to the people that helped make her life so meaningful.

Maybe one of the reasons why she can take such pictures is because she is a beautiful person. In any case, there was no doubt that she is a beautiful person.

Through their camera lenses, a tree is not just an ordinary tree that you would look at once and not think about again. A tree is a tree. A creation. A thing of beauty that will most likely outlive us several lifetimes. Something that must be treasured.

Maybe a glimpse of eternity?

Not only that, people like her help us see so much of the injustice of the world as captured through their various media, and make us aware that we should fight it.

What I like about people like her is that they see the beauty that is in the world, and they take their paintbrushes, cameras, or crayons and capture a little of that beauty to share it with us. They inspire us with their love for beauty and the way they see even the beauty in brokenness. Their pictures and paintings and crayon sketches make me so aware of the beauty that is to be found in life itself. Perhaps as artists, part of our job is not only to make people see this beauty, but also inspire them to look at the world in a different way.

I was on her facebook info page while writing this. Ironically, considering the theme of this post, she had written about herself:

Right now, my job is to inspire you.

Right now, my job is to inspire you.

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

Last photograph is of and by said photographer. Used with her permission. Thank you, Lauren! For many things.