Metsola on Woolf

Perhaps one of the loneliest writing I have ever come across just got a colorful upgrade.

Penguin U.K. has collaborated with Aino-Maija Metsola to design six book covers for the Vintage Classics reissue of Virginia Woolf’s most noted works: A Room of One’s Own, The Waves, The Years, Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, and To The Lighthouse.

Metsola’s bold imagery is surprisingly inspired by Woolf’s darker themes that dwell on loneliness, inner struggles, and creativity. Metsola, with her use of ink, markers, and gouache, created vibrant patterns that channel the sceneries, rhythm, and theme Woolf has so fluidly set – and the end result is a beautiful interpretation of Woolf’s stories.

The cover for Mrs. Dalloway abstractly draws from the flowers arranged by the protagonist; The Waves from the rhythms of Woolf’s words; and on the cover of The Years, shapes flow by like passing time.

While we’re on the subject of book covers, here is Chip Kidd’s (a more “mainstream” book designer) entertaining Ted Talk on the art of book design –

On hope

“There is no love of life without despair of life.” – Albert Camus

Illustration from "Cry, Heart, But Never Break" by Glenn Ringtved
Illustration from “Cry, Heart, But Never Break” by Glenn Ringtved

In a span of 48 hours, my heart has been broken in what feels like a million pieces. My beloved country has found a legitimate way to bury in the Heroes Cemetery the worst dictator in our history (or found a way to uphold the law, depending on who you’re talking to). And in the other part of the world, a man who has legitimized hate now holds power.

Albert Camus, in his Lyrical and Critical Essays, rallied towards cultivating our highest virtues, our deepest decencies, and our most ennobled nature, certainly a call worth echoing in today’s world.

But what if one has lost hope? Can we still call on our noblest of selves to rise above the despair?

On Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit discusses hope and what it entails in the twenty-first century. Armed with her usual poetic ways, Solnit encapsulates the kind of hope I yearn for in these trying times, but equally important, also clarifies what hope is not. In shaping the uneven terrain of hope, her words provide a semblance of calm after introspection. Onwards we go.

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.”

 

Literature vs Traffic

A beautiful response to traffic, Luzinterruptus staged a literary river of 10,000 books overflowing on a busy street as part of Toronto’s annual Nuit Blanche.

Literature vs. Traffic touches upon the implications of traffic and congestion by replacing an otherwise noisy polluted street with the written word. The art piece has been previously installed in Madrid, New York, and Melbourne.

Spectators were urged to participate in the piece by taking home books, leaving the literary river dry (pun intended) after about 10 hours.

The artist recounts,

“..A city area which is typically reserved for speed, pollution and noise, will become, for one night, a place for quietness, calm and coexistence illuminated by the vague, soft light coming out of the lighted pages.”

Literature vs Traffic reminds me of Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, a book that records her walks around a city block with 11 different perspectives, from an artist, to a geologist, to a baby and a dog.

We all look at our surroundings with our biases – some don’t even look at all, consumed by work or whatever it is we deem more important at any given time. We float past each other, believing our urgency is far superior than others. Sometimes it takes stimuli, pushed upon us such as Nuit Blanche, or intentional, such as Horowitz’s record of different perspectives, to insist upon attentiveness and mindfulness of our surroundings.

“The books will be there for those who want to take them so the installation will recycle itself and will last as long as users want it there. Cars will eventually fill their space but for many of those who walked by this place that night, the memory of those books that took that same space will improve their relationship with these surroundings.” – Luzinterruptus

The Chaos Of Venice

Some places are etched into your memory for its sheer beauty, its people, the way it made you feel like you were capable of anything; all of the above, if you’re lucky.

Some places are etched into your memory for its sheer beauty, its people, the way it made you feel like you were capable of anything; all of the above, if you’re lucky.

But Venice, I remember for its chaos, which is not to say that that is not beauty. Ask anyone who has been there and they would know what I mean – the chaos of tourists making their way into the square and lining up outside the church and the galleries, the aggressive waiters ushering you into their cafes, the high end shops in every nook and cranny. Centuries before, in D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Venice was described as the “holiday-place of all holiday-places”. And it seems the description is apt now more than ever.

There is nothing that connects me to Venice. It was not a dream to see its canals, I had no longing to walk its cobblestone streets and bridges, yet when I got there, I knew I would never forget it. I regret squeezing everything into a half day itinerary but maybe next time I would not make the same mistake.

Venice is a beautiful place, and for that alone I’m sure people would love it. As for me, I will remember Venice for how it made me feel part of a bigger world, where a spectrum of cultures and colors and beliefs can merge together in a beautiful chaos.

Changing The Currency Of Life

In a few days, I will be celebrating a year into a life of self-employment. Has it really been a year? Time sometimes makes itself known only after it has passed.annie

It has been a difficult ride yet it has also been the right one — at least it feels right as I write this — the year I changed the currency of my life.

This journey is by no means an original one. The life well lived is a subject written consistently in history, from Tolstoy to David Wallace Forster. So much so today where everyone is warranted a virtual space where their journeys can easily be shared — this blog included!

But of all the rich literature on this subject, Annie Dillard stated the simplest if not the most straightforward observation, that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Let me share how I spent my days before. I worked long hours because my self-worth was measured by my position in the company. It was measured by ranking, by red-amber-green projects, by approvals and more approvals. And in the weekends there was only spending of hard-earned cash, or traveling to places that made me forget about Mondays and the dread it brings. Occasionally there was reading and writing, but even less time with family and equally busy friends.

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. — Annie Dillard

My parents were growing old and falling ill, and while I love them without reservations, I had no idea who they were. Nor did I make any effort to get to know them.

I maintained relationships where history trumps quality, where loyalty at all costs was rewarded over personal and spiritual growth.

This was, of course, all by my own choosing. And it was by that same choice that I decided to rearrange the way I did things, how I earned, and how I made use of my time.

For the longest time, I felt I was running out of time to do the things in my checklist. Badly made lists have a way of doing that, turning dreams into a rat race of false accomplishments. Looking back, I knew my checklist was trivial; a reinforcement of the belief that I needed to get more things done if I wanted to amount to something. Yet despite the many ticks on my list, I wasn’t being a good daughter, a good friend, a good person.

A year into this “new” life has made me braver. Brave enough to face the person I had become and the life I made as a result of those choices, and brave enough to overthrow the currency I was using to live my life.

At this point, I can offer no advice despite my egoistic need to do so. Some days I struggle to live by my new perspectives, some days it comes naturally, as if I have eased into this new selfhood I have created. Cliché as it may sound, every day I am learning something new about myself, and every day I am reaccepting my flaws, hard as that may be.

From The Mountains And Back

There is a certain heaviness one feels from traveling nonstop for several days. It is a heavy weariness that knocks me out into a full day’s sleep afterwards despite 3 cups of coffee and, yes, a chocolate parfait.

photo-1446435210126-bfa18ee3b7a1

Now there is only the night after and the softness one becomes after slumber. I am neither awake nor asleep, just settling into the darkness I wake up to, re-nestling myself into the body I bear.

Traveling between the city and the mountains, I get sucked into multiple parallel realities — one, where life is a complex web of relationships and histories; the other, where life is a constant struggle between man and nature.

In both I have acquired a certain sense of balance and self, one needing the other in order to achieve harmony, or at least something close to it.

“We are each a river with a particular abiding character, but we show radically different aspects of our self according to the territory through which we travel.” — David Whyte

Is it possible to resurrect different facets of our selves as we go back and forth from the mountains and the cities we call home? This shifting between the tides of our selves, falling and rising as we traverse through cemented streets and rough roads, is it not self-imposed as we consensually allow the outer world to shape our inner selves?

More than the toll on my body, it is the breadth with which my selves are stretched that tires me and inspires me at the same time. It is perhaps divine intervention that I am able to look into myself(selves) at this juncture in my life, when I am most ready to meet or be reintroduced to them. The good, the bad, the ugly versions of myself all rising and falling together as the bus moves from paved road to mud and gravel.

A Look Into The Embroidered World Of Juana Gomez

Sometimes when I am labored by life, I imagine myself looking at it through the eyes of the other — a friend, a foe, a past, an artist, an icon.

ba3b5f_0a22eef39a6444e29487b860db9e8245

Most days a simple glance through social media does the trick; influencers heavily using their personal brands to give us snippets of their shared lives, and just like that I am inspired, stimulated, within seconds after seeing a post or a photo.

But art, art is an entirely different matter. It demands more, where seconds turn into hours and inspiration turns into lengthy questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’. Perhaps it is to overcompensate for not having any artistic talent that I labor over the details, as if it will give my hands the grace to create something worthy.

But I digress.

Art commands me more so on days when life is not panning out how I want it to. It is escapist, it is selfish. And today I am lost in the world of Chilean artist, Juana Gomez.

In her recent collection Constructal, Gomez embroiders tree-like patterns into faded self-portraits and photographs to create unique art pieces.

Heavily influenced by Professor Adrian Bejan’s constructal law of physics, Gomez presents flow and interconnectedness through lines and patterns inspired by streets, arteries, manuals, old textbooks, and even outer space, superimposing it into the human anatomy — different elements and realms merged into one piece of art.

More than the science and the art involved, she also delves on how heritage plays a role in her process:

We do not only inherit the color of our eyes. We inherit a rich history. My grandmother taught me how to embroider, and now I work with that inheritance, I repeat patterns so as not to forget, I embroider to continue these memory lines that must not be lost” — Juana Gomez, interview with The Creators Project


Looking at her works I am reminded of Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist 99% of the time, but one that wields the pen with such poetic eloquence she has also been rendered a de facto poet and philosopher.

In her quest for scientific study came the sudden clarity for attentiveness to life at all scales. Much like Gomez’s art, Kimmerer also touches upon interconnectedness this time between man and nature:

A Cheyenne elder of my acquaintance once told me that the best way to find something is not to go looking for it. This is a hard concept for a scientist. But he said to watch out of the corner of your eye, open to possibility, and what you seek will be revealed. The revelation of suddenly seeing what I was blind to only moments before is a sublime experience for me. I can revisit those moments and still feel the surge of expansion. The boundaries between my world and the world of another being get pushed back with sudden clarity an experience both humbling and joyful.
[…]
Mosses and other small beings issue an invitation to dwell for a time right at the limits of ordinary perception. All it requires of us is attentiveness. Look in a certain way and a whole new world can be revealed.
See more of Juana Gomez’s art here.