Archives For art


!meow colage


After our whirlwind tour of sites in Los Alamos and Taos, my friend Kelly suggested that Mtuseni and I check out Meow Wolf — an “immersive” art exhibit in Santa Fe. She described it as “indescribable.” I was more in the mood for traditional Southwestern flavor, but it sounded intriguing. And maybe more fun for Mtuseni, who’s not really an an art guy.

As the Buddhist saying goes, “After enlightenment, the laundry.” Only this time we reversed it. We hit up a laundromat in Santa Fe, then Mtuseni and I walked into what looked like a warehouse or empty big box store — and were immediately bombarded with vibrant colors and textures and … stuff. Meow Wolf is a maze of big and small rooms and nooks and passages with different artistic themes. You basically wander and take it all in. It really is impossible to describe… you have to see it and experience it. 


wolf pair

The treehouse has catwalks that link to exhibits on an upper level, with views of the main room from above.


wolf colors

Meow Wolf is pretty dark inside; it can be hard to get pictures. This is the main entry path.


!meow mirror

This looked like a good place for an infinite nap.


wolf bw

This room was pretty cool. It reminded me of old Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1930s. And it was nice to get a break from mad colors everywhere.


!meow strings


Mtuseni and I wandered around, following our own paths. There’s no formal path or flow; you just go where your curiosity takes you. To be honest, the whole thing soon seemed a bit gimmicky to me: more Universal Studios than art. (Though kudos to the artists who did create it — it’s just not my cup of tea.) I felt very tired. I thought of just lying down somewhere and taking a nap — people would probably think it was just part of the exhibit. 

After a couple hours we escaped back into the blinding New Mexico sunlight and drove the half hour back to Kelly’s place in Los Alamos. And this is when the crash happened.

Thankfully it wasn’t a car crash. The nonstop weeks of planning and driving and touring finally caught up with me. I was sick. Tired, achey, congested, even a slight fever. I slept when we got back and emerged only for dinner. The next day Mtsueni and I went into Los Alamos so I could deal with a paperwork issue back home — no epic adventures. I was a slug in a daze.

Luckily our hosts graciously stepped up to entertain Mtuseni. Kelly’s husband Grant is very active and outdoorsy. He has lots of equipment and toys… and insisted that Mtuseni get the full experience. He even took a long spin on a $3,500 mountain bike Grant was trying out. (Thank god I was napping when Grant told Mtuseni to ride his motorcycle! And Mtuseni had the sense to say no!)


mtu suit

Grant’s winter hiking gear. Given Mtuseni’s well-documented distaste for the cold, he’d probably wear this when it gets below 60 degrees!


mtu board

Once he got over his shock at hanging upside-down, Mtuseni did sit-ups. A little cruel bit of showing off in front of three late 50s folks who could barely do them on a flat surface!


We wrapped up our last night in Los Alamos sitting on the deck where we had our first burrito breakfast — this time with old school Christmas lights. We marveled at millions of stars in a clear Southwestern sky, and showed Mtuseni the Big Dipper, which can’t be seen in the Southern Hemisphere. The visit wasn’t all I’d planned, but it was a nice little slice of home life before heading back out to an endless string of hotels and restaurants. Thanks guys! 


alamos sunset


Cultural Insensitivity?

April 20, 2012 — 2 Comments

Cape-Town-mug, South-Africa, arts-and-craftsI’m a good, fairly liberal resident of a Northeast blue state. And I’ve lived in San Francisco. I consider myself well-versed at being politically correct. But enjoying my morning coffee, I’ve begun to worry… “Was buying this mug culturally insensitive and, well, a little tacky?”

I’ve been on a quest for a new coffee mug for some time — one that’s oversized and fits comfortably. Too often a large mug has a handle that emphasizes form over function. I don’t need cutting-edge ergonomics, but my fingers should fit the handle and the mug should sit comfortably in my hand. So I was thrilled to find this mug at a kiosk when visiting Victoria Wharf in Capetown with Mtuseni.

Like any teenager, Mtuseni’s enthralled with malls. They do nothing for me — especially after flying 17 hours to see Africa. But the trip was to spend time with him, and if he was happy, I’d accommodate him. But if I’m going to be in a mall, I need to make a purchase to justify strolling through the banality. And of course I wanted to have something to remember my trip: A mug for my morning coffee would be just the thing.

The kiosk sold handcrafted ceramics made by local South Africans, and the colors and quality immediately caught my eye. The mugs had a variety of designs, and I spent some time looking for just the right one. I loved the ones with the little houses and kids playing. Mtuseni watched and weighed in as I debated the color of every house and kid’s outfit. This would be my daily Capetown memory, and I wanted it to be perfect. (And I’m a Libra; I do the same thing buying an apple.)

I love this mug. But one morning a couple weeks ago it hit me, “What did Mtuseni think as I oohed and ahhed over these cute mugs depicting ‘life’ in South Africa?” I was partly drawn to the scene because it reminded me of his settlement — although the illustrated shacks are better than his: at least they have windows. Did Mtuseni see me as somehow being elitist? Or as an American dumbing his life down to a quaint cartoon?

I also bought an essential oil burner that looks like a traditional rural hut. I never saw South-Africa-hut, Kwazulu-Natal, Durban-hutany real huts, but Mtuseni had sent me pictures of them when he traveled to his mother’s home province of Kwazulu Natal for his brother’s funeral. He was taken with them, and we bought one for his mom. He told me she loves it.

I still love my mug. It fits nicely in my hand and reminds me of that afternoon in Capetown, which is exactly what I wanted. But now I feel a slight twinge of guilt when I use it. Maybe I was insensitive buying the mug with Mtuseni; maybe it’s a non-issue. Being politically correct can make life difficult sometimes.

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