Originally published on Substack.
Please forgive any strange and bewildering formatting or typos — or the lack of same after this disclaimer. My precious, my own, my Mac Air, has been ripped from my arms after it stopped charging or seeing any of my external things last week. I have enough devices to work around it, but I’m still suspicious of “apps.” I’m a browser girl. I like browsing. I like big screens, and clicky external keyboards, and would you believe it? I keep putting my hand on my mouse. So I must even like that. Touchscreen, smudgescreen. (But literally.)
Anyway, I’m writing this on my iPad, which turns out to have been a very timely gift. I wasn’t sure what I’d use it for, but it turns out, it’s a solid “my laptop hath been ripped from mine fingertips” back-up. And I am using an external keyboard, and I have it propped on my monitor on top of two thick books that were nearby: Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future, which just hasn’t made its way onto a shelf since…uh, summer…and a shiny new edition of my first real introduction to classic Greek mythology, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. It’s interesting, because I can still understand why I found/find her approach so appealing, and yet, I also argue with some bits much more. I’ll save the arguments for when I need to talk more publicly about the book I’m writing that it is one of my research texts for. I first read this book in a mass market edition that I revisited again and again in the giant tub in my parents’ house in high school. I associate myths with relaxation in part for this reason, with a luxuriant sensory experience, a bubble bath where you linger long enough to not only get pruny but need to turn on the water a few times so it stays hot.
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But I digress.
Last week was so busy! And I say this not in a braggy way, but in a way relieved that I had finally started to feel better and so managed it. We had a film crew over at the Lexington Writer’s Room for a story that will air on KET (our PBS affiliate), so more on that TK. Make-up artist and everything. She gave me a great line I will one day use in a book, so you can’t use it, I call dibs, but you can nod when it shows up. She asked about whether an interviewee she was doing elsewhere was bald or not. “It matters if it’s complete baldness. Completely bald is like doing three faces.” I mean, fair, and nonjudgmental. She was just looking for a work estimate.
I finally got out some tiny cards and presents that were meant to be for the holiday (and I whiffed the holidays this year, sorry!). Puppy had his first training class. A plus. I started writing more, and so of course my computer had to throw its fit. And we went to an art exhibit (two, actually!).
Visiting art museums and galleries has always been one of my favorite ways to get inspired. They force you to look at things differently, to see and absorb and pay attention to what’s outside you, but also what’s inside you, your reactions and the why and what of them, in a way nothing else quite does. I always recommend taking in visual art to young writers, because I’m a firm believer that it not only makes your imagination more robust (in a way that spitting words into an AI and getting immediate gratification results never will — SORRY), more able to think of how other people see the world, and how that’s different than the way you do, and how it’s the same (which reading also does, obviously). But I also believe it gives you a more robust visual vocabulary.
And it’s fun. And can be exhilarating. Which is part of why the hush, the gentle politics of negotiating a gallery, are a little bit a counterpoint to the actual experience at times.
Anyway, all of this a long way of saying Christopher and I drove over the Speed Museum in Louisville to take in the Alphonse Mucha Art Nouveau Visionary exhibit before it closed (it’s a touring show, so keep an eye out). Some of the smallest parts were right in tune with both the art heist book I just wrote and the one I’m writing now, if in different ways. Currently, I’m writing the witchy apothecary historical and seeing the perfume bottles, even slightly past my period, and their labels, the printing on tins, because Mucha did so much advertising work, was so helpful. This is what I mean when I say visual vocabulary; I will do a better job describing now. It also can be larger things like light and color and composition.)
Those are some of my favorites.
But we also meandered the rest of the gallery, because we hadn’t visited since a huge revamp some years back. There’s so much I could talk about here, but I love this little mystery they’ve chosen to highlight, a possible fake that is traditionally one of the museum’s most identifiable holdings.
And the explaining captions:
Fake or real or real fake? You decide. I want to crack him open — gently! — and see if there’s a map in there.
The second exhibit we went to was to showcase my brilliant friend Alex Narramore’s art, which usually only gets to last in its full splendor for a wedding day. (You might recall our paranormal adventure.) She is one of the few remaining people who knows how to do extravagant sugar flower sculpture, and has built a wedding cake business on it. But when I say that, you aren’t getting it. So here’s Alex with a creation on display for “One Night, One Cake.”
Despite appearances, this was the opposite of the quiet gallery experience. It was Alex’s first gallery show, and so stuffed with friends there to support her and gab gab gab. Two nice counterpoints, equally beautiful. I met a stained glass artist and a sculptor and they were forced to agree they are bad asses, just like Alex. You’re out here making things that could just blow up or melt or disintegrate, and then instead, they mostly turn out beautiful. It feels a lot braver than showing up at the page, even if it’s kinda the same.
So go out and find some inspiration, or take some from here, my friends! And…if you haven’t preordered MR & MRS WITCH, what are you waiting for? It’s out in a little over a month!
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