Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Commute

People who brag about “American Exceptionalism” clearly don’t commute to work on the red line subway in Chicago.  On a good day, the red line moves at a labored, halting speed that makes riders suspect that perhaps the train is being pulled by three snails, a pair of squirrels with attention deficit disorder, and an angry dachshund.  

The seats in both the old cars and the new are configured in a way that creates awkward, unintentional closeness with strangers.  it is hard to avoid staring at each other, or focusing absently on somebody’s butt.  The seats are mysteriously covered in squares of fabric which sport suspicious brown stains, gum, or even a thick bed of nutshells and chicken bones.

People live on the trains.  There used to be areas on the red line train cars that resembled mini-cubicles.  I often referred to that area of the train as “the house,” as usually somebody was asleep back there, surrounded by stuff.  

A dog would have a field-day on the red line.  Layers of odor are so thick and vivid-- the smells surely must be solid forms with geographical borders within the train.  For kicks, I used to text my friend, Svetlana, and we would trade descriptions of our daily olfactory experiences.  For example:  “today I smell stale egg McMuffin, aqua net, reconstituted whiskey sweat, fresh urine, pigeon feet, bleach, and a fart.  She would reply with “today I smell old socks, garlic salt, Axe body spray, a hamster cage, urine, and a dusting of poop."   

News about the Chicago blue line subway missing the stop and riding up an escalator at O’Hare Airport does not surprise me.  Since moving back to Chicago, I have been a faithful public transit rider, and rode the red line during rush hour for six years, alternating with busses when the train became intolerable.  So many of my creature portraits are inspired by people-watching on the train.  I often include the el train in the background of artwork.  Because I deeply love the el.  And I also hate it.

I’m a self-aware claustrophobic.  This quality is not a good one on crowded trains that stop a lot for no reason.  Packed like sardines, we stand in a tiny train car, stalled in a dark tunnel, with only a mechanical voice telling us that the train is waiting for “signal clearance.”  This makes me anxious.  I acquired a flask for this reason.  

I won’t even get into the etiquette of people on the train, as that is most likely a universal complaint in any city.  During rush hour on a crowded train, I have had interesting conversations with strangers, have run into old friends, made new ones, have observed acts of kindness, allowed a random teenage boy to fall asleep on my shoulder...  but also I have been groped, witnessed public masturbation, observed selfish behavior, dodged puke, been yelled at by mentally ill citizens, pushed out the door, encountered fights, etc. etc.  You never know what to expect.  

Despite my issues with the CTA, I still ride the subway.  I ride it because at times, you observe a quilt of diverse faces so beautiful that you see the face of God in everybody.  Peacefully cohabiting space with strangers has always given me the most hope in life-- that under all of our external differences, we are on the same team.

This piece in my drawing show, Escape into Absurdity, is titled, “Red Line Sardine Subway Commute.”  The show is at the City Gallery in the HIstoric Water Tower, 806 N. Michigan Avenue.  Hosted by DCASE.  Open until April 20-- every day 10-6:30 pm.  Free admission.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Chicago Department of Culture and Special Events is hosting a solo exhibition of my drawings, January 25-April 20 at the beautiful City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower.  This is my first solo exhibition of art and I feel honored and grateful to have this amazing opportunity.  I didn't realize how many drawings I have created until attempting to select which ones to exhibit.  The entire process of putting an exhibition of this size together was rather cathartic....  I'm very proud of this show.

The gallery is open every day, from 10 am to 6:30 pm.  It is located at 806 N. Michigan Avenue, on the West side of the street, between Chicago Ave. and Pearson.  If you are in Chicago, please check it out if you are interested.  I'm very proud of this show.

If you happen to be interested in purchasing any of the pieces exhibited, please contact me via email:  juliakmurphy@yahoo.com.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Thanksgiving Story

I like Thanksgiving because the holiday brings family and friends together to enjoy conversation, down-home cooking, and contemplation about what we are thankful for in our lives.  Of course, we embrace the mythic aspects of the holiday-- the underbelly of the historically dubious Thanksgiving story involves the genocide of Native Americans by a swarm of religiously conservative castaways from Europe, and a near future legacy of enslavement of people, destruction of nature, and global military dominion.  And then there is the horrific modern invention of Black Friday, which is nothing short of a consumerist zombie-orgy-- capitalist diarrhea.

Nonetheless, the holiday is grand if you are not working retail, or eating alone.  Most Americans choose to spin the holiday in a positive direction, and focus on gratitude.  I like to extrapolate the underlying message of Thanksgiving-- that we are all immigrants in this world, with something to bring to the table to share with others.  

I created this piece, “Undocumented Pilgrim,” in 2006.  It was published in American Illustration 26.  It hangs in my apartment, and I’m not sure if I ever want to part with it.  In my mind, the greatest thing about living in an American city is the rainbow of cultures represented in a metropolitan area.  With the exception of Native Americans, all Americans descended from immigrants.  Thanksgiving is an immigrant story.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Sophomore

     Liberated from school, an exodus of youth spills out of every orifice of Amundsen High on weekdays at 3 pm.  Like schools of exotic fish, the teens flood the nearby streets.  Exhibiting a cacophony of color accompanied by a soundtrack of extra-loud, crackly, pubescent voices, the teens swagger south on Damen Avenue past the window of my art studio.  I used to watch the daily parade, feeling mildly annoyed for reasons only a fellow curmudgeon could understand.  But then something changed in my perception:  they’ve grown on me.  Occasionally, a few teens knock on the window, wave hello, and even step inside for a visit.  They walk around, study the art, and ask genuinely interesting and challenging questions about the work.  I’m moved by their curiosity and enthusiasm.  
     A large Chicago public high school, Amundsen High boasts a poor academic record, and does not meet federal education standards.  Before the bells rings, a protective block of police cars line the street.  Needless to say, the school attracts students who do not test high enough for elite public schools, and whose families cannot afford private school.  Some of the students are dealing with incredibly difficult family situations while trying to focus on passing their classes.  
     While a year ago I foolishly dismissed these young adults as an amorphous cast of clones, I now view these teens as unique creatures-- overgrown puppies vibrating on the precipice of adulthood, exhibiting a mix of great insecurity, naive confidence, curiosity, open-minded acceptance-- while asserting individuality any way they can.  I’m fascinated by their hairdos.  This rooster, titled “Sophomore,” is inspired by high school style and swagger-- window dressing on deeply thoughtful souls contemplating the future.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Cubicle Creatures"
"Working Hard on Those Reports"
"Stapler Convo"

May Day:  A few Words about Work

Like many middle class Gen X’ers in my age cohort, I have worked for most of my life.  I don’t mean this in a Charles Dickens sort of way, but in a 20th century American Midwestern suburban manner.  I started humbly in junior high—mowing the lawn and baby-sitting for neighbor kids.  Introduced to a rainbow of parenting styles at a very young age, I was convinced that being a full-time parent is probably the most difficult enterprise on the planet, and therefore had no desire to plunge into that universe of responsibility for 30 years or so. 

In high school, I worked retail, selling children's shoes at Shoes R US,  followed by a stint waiting tables at the local retirement home.  I don’t know what is harder-- squishing limp child-feet into overpriced shoes and convincing a parent that their kid indeed does possess two left feet, or balancing a giant tray covered with tiny glasses of orange, cranberry and prune juices and enduring verbal harassment from the “mens table.”  In both jobs, I was introduced to the delicate concept of “customer service” to some of the most ornery customers I would ever encounter. 

In college, during summers and parts of the year when my schedule allowed, I waited tables at the business school, and learned basic bartending when I turned 21.  Waiting tables for future CEOs gave me insight into the the profound levels of blandness the business world demands of its charges.  Beige on beige.  In lieu of tips, we were paid with food-- very good food.  

After college, I have labored at a series of jobs that range from the fun and exciting (television shows), intense (bartending), mundane (office work) and creatively challenging (freelance art/video work/teacher’s assistant).  In addition to accruing a bunch of bizarre skills, every one of these jobs taught me some valuable life lessons about ethical responsibilities, working with others, and the value of time.

Six years ago, in need of health benefits and some financial stability, I officially gave in to “the man” and decided to work full-time as an administrative assistant in a large, corporate not-for-profit company.  I found the work to be very simple-- data entry, organizational, database-oriented computer stuff.  I type 80 wpm, and have decent writing abilities, so none of this was remotely challenging.  The hours are regular, and the job is largely predictable.  The hard part is mustering the will everyday to get up and commute to a job that I find to be mentally disfiguring.

My intention was that I would work on my creative endeavors during all the “other hours” of the day and use the meager salary I make at this job to support myself.  This approach is, quite frankly, utterly exhausting, physically and mentally.  My life-force is being sucked out of my body by the giant vacuum of cubicle imprisonment.

Not to be overly dramatic, but this work plan plummeted me into a state of existential despair that has resulted in some revelations...  I’ve never felt more out-of-place in my life.  Like I’m wearing all my clothes inside-out and walking backwards every day.  Corporate-ese is a foreign language to me.  Corporate construction seems artificial and soulless.  Bureaucratic machinations, however necessary to keeping order, are just downright hilarious to me.  And it’s not supposed to be funny.  I am the Beavis and Butthead of my own life right now-- the anti-intellect in the workplace.  The person who goes to meetings and in lieu of taking real notes, doodles immature scrawls all over my notebook.

I don’t mean to disparage this kind of work-- some people clearly thrive in the office environment.  They feel challenged and energized by the work.  Good for them! It warms the cockles of my heart to know that there are happy people who like working in a giant beehive with hundreds of other people. 

Cubicles are the architectural incarnation of purgatory.

Personally, I find it impossible to concentrate in this environment.  At any given moment the soundscape provides a hostile environment to thought:  in the cubicles near me… one co-worker engages in non-stop phone yapping, giggling and chortling, as she works her way through three hours of personal phone calls.  Another listens to music on headphones, happily humming atonally.  Sometimes, I am treated to interminable co-worker blather about children’s illnesses, wedding showers, reality TV, Hallmark holidays, etc. etc.  Other times, office workers engage in monologues of manufactured drama, as people attempt to make their job seem more interesting to themselves and others by creating an atmosphere of urgency and importance.

To be continued…

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Creature Drawings


rThese creature are inspired by people I see everyday-- on the subway, walking down the street, at my day job, wandering down the grocery store aisles, or other places I randomly find myself. I made a point to infuse each beast with the emotion I was feeling when I drew it. Each one is an improvisation-- pen, ink and brush on paper. Some characters turned out better than others. I have my personal favorites... I encourage you to click on the image to make larger if you would like to see more detail.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Larger Works

"Summer City"
36" X 38"

I've been working on some larger-scale pieces. The words at the top of this drawing read "I See Beauty Every Day." The artwork consists of 9 drawings sewn together with thread-- like a quilt of drawings on paper. I scanned each piece individually, so the image above is a bit of a fabrication-- the artwork has some clumsy stitching around the separate pieces, and has buckled a bit from a lot of drawing, painting, collaging, editing, adding, removing, re-working, etc. This piece has been marinating on my dining room wall for over 2 years, and has gone through a lot of changes. An expedient artist I am not. I end a piece when I'm sick of working on it.

As the title implies, I make a valiant attempt to find beauty somewhere, someplace every day. It's easy when you're biking by the lake, or walking past a gorgeous tree, or admiring the lovely flowers that Mayor Daley planted all over the place. But beauty often lurks in some ugly, smelly, dank, dark, anxious environments-- subtle expressions of dignity-- and that is the kind of beauty you have to search for... and that makes me feel okay with the world sometimes...

If you haven't figured out yet from reading my other blogs, humans drive me nuts. And I'm not exempt from my own scorn, in case you were wondering. But still... still we humans are terribly interesting creatures with both ugly and beautiful tendencies, and I never get tired of looking at and drawing people.

"Song for Autumn"
34" X 37"

This piece is called "Song for Autumn" and was made before the first one-- about 4 years ago. I guess that I would describe it as a meditation on death. While the first piece was inspired by summertime-- a joyful and festive time in Chicago-- this artwork is an ode to the colder months. I had moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles, and there had been a few deaths and sicknesses in the family. I had forgotten how melancholy Chicago is in autumn and how utterly austere and dour winter is... I lived near a cemetery with a park nearby where people walked their dogs. I am amazed by how much dog owners start to resemble their dogs, and vice versa. It was a lonely time-- I didn't know too many people here, so I found solace in long walks around the neighborhoods to get reaquainted with the city I left 11 years before.

I have since done a little more doodling on this piece on a few panels-- the image above is an older scan, so the latest version looks a little different. I will attempt to take a successful photograph of this piece eventually.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Parade for the Wretched

"Parade for the Wretched" 22" X 30" mixed media

I love the city. Cities are like large life-forms in which every inch seems anthropomorphized. The rats, pigeons, squirrels, seagulls, cats, dogs, coyote, raccoons, owls, buildings, sidewalks, parks, beaches, benches, subways, trains and busses all seem like people. They have distinct, human personalities and in the best of times, I have this harmonious feeling that "we're all in it together."

I see city life as a giant Clown Car stuffed with goofballs, and I’m one of them. I like a good parade-- music, pageantry, colors, dancing. In Lombard, IL, where I grew up, every Spring was ushered in by the annual Lilac parade. By New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro standards, the Lilac parade is a 5th rate procession of suburban oddities accompanied by marching bands and droves of motorcyclists. But nonetheless, the yearly parade stoked my appetite for people watching.

The parade of faces I observe daily on my commute through downtown is food for the soul. These faces are the raw materials that make me want to draw. The rhythm of walking gives city streets a flow, a dance, movement-- a reminder that this giant microcosm is evolving in real time.

On one of my sojourns walking up Clark Street in Edgewater last autumn, a priest wearing coke-bottle thick, horn-rimmed glasses stopped abruptly, looked me in the eye, and said, “keep trying each and every day. Never stop.” Then he continued walking. I felt that that was some pretty good advice and catered directly to me, particularly because I am someone who often is the first to fold-- to give in, give up-- to let “nature run its course.” I typically take zero action, then sulk when nothing happens.

I title this piece, “Parade for the Wretched,”-- an homage to the flawed human condition. A poem for all the people who are trying each and every day to make it work, and fail more often than succeed. This art piece is not dedicated to the corporate, self-satisfied, high on life, self-promotional, survival-of-the-fittest types. They write the rules and have Team America in their pockets so they don’t need any art pieces glorifying them. This is artwork for the people, beautiful and ugly, rich and poor, employed and unemployed, who may not have tried hard enough-- who regret hurting others, damaging themselves, feel existential despair and yet..... somehow keep the crazy train moving.

I have been told, and imagine it to be true, that the most important human qualities for living with one another are compassion and empathy. When I was a bartender in Los Angeles, a bar regular, John Ramirez, told me that I'm a misanthropic philanthropist. And I do believe that he's right. I feel great compassion for the lonely-hearted, destitute souls asking me for money. I empathize with the working person, slogging through snow on their day to a dull and unsatisfying job. I feel for the kids who don't fit in. Strangers pour their hearts out to me at the bus stop. I'm a good listener.

But on the flip-side, I’m an ornery person with an occasional nihilistic streak. Seas of humans bent over cell phones, texting while walking, weaving down the sidewalk like buoys bobbing on the ocean make me wonder if a giant asteroid would do us all a favor. Birthers, tea baggers, CEOs, styrojerks, asshats and douchebags-- I want the sidewalk to open up and swallow them whole.

I don’t seriously wish anyone harm, but you get the picture. Even the most harmonious moments can be derailed in a nanosecond with reminders that we’re all autonomous souls who don’t always enjoy great chemistry with each other. And that’s where empathy comes full-circle. People sometimes aggravate us, but we all have to live together—a dancing parade of complex souls with a blend of victory and defeat in our vocabulary of life experience-- some people with a heartier dose than others in either department, but we are indeed trying to make it work together. And nobody is exempt from joining the parade of the wretched every once in awhile...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tax Cuts for Rich People: A helpful guide

The republican’s insistence on gifting tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans threatens to add trillions to the deficit in the next few years. The GOP fought hard for this, and President Obama and dems caved to their pithy demands. (If only Congress had fought so hard to prevent Bush from invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, we could have saved lives and money). The GOP machine labeled repeal of Bush tax cuts as “redistribution of wealth” and somehow managed to convince Congress that a tax increase for the wealthy will put an irreparable strain on the American psyche for years to come.

For the 98% of Americans whose average income has either stagnated or disappeared entirely despite a wildly growing economy and bank bailouts, it looks as if we are living in a plutocracy: the rich rule politics.

If the wealthy are in the minority, how do they manage to convince the other 98% of the population that their tax cuts are vital to the economic health of our nation? How is this fraud sold to the public?

For some odd reason, many rich people in this country express that they feel victimized by the system. As if they are being punished for their hard work and success. As if making more money that 98% of the population of the world is a burden that they must shoulder, cold and all alone. As if working long hours as a venture capitalist is so much harder on the body and soul as working long hours as a janitor cleaning up after venture capitalists. Either way, the work we do is WORK.

For example, when I land an illustration assignment or somebody purchases my art, I am working very hard for very little money. Yet, the work is challenging, and I love it, despite the low monetary compensation. This is freelance work with no health benefits, no 401K plan and no taxes taken out until the end of the year. When I drag my tired ass to my day-job at a giant non-profit healthcare policy factory to process piles of mind-numbingly boring paperwork for 7.5 hours, I am exhausted by the end of the day because I have worked hard at something that I feel no passion for. And my butt hurts from sitting in a cheap office chair. My posture resembles a question mark. My hands, vital to my art career, ache from returning email, working on Excel charts, typing stuff into useless databases and filing junk. My brain hurts from being a part of a dysfunctional bureaucracy where employees labor needlessly on their self-appraisal charts for the pathetic bonus handed out every April. My modest hourly wage never seems like enough compensation for losing those hours of my life. But it’s work, and I pay taxes, and the company provides the illusive health benefits.

Unlike many of the top 2% earner-whiners, middle-class and low-wage workers perhaps are struggling too much to feel sorry for themselves all of the time. Or they are realists who accept life as a “you win some, you lose some” existence. They might be not be making as much as they think they should, but they are following their passions. Or perhaps they are working two soul-crushing low-wage jobs with no medical benefits, but they must work to survive. People making a wage far above the national average should thank their lucky stars. Period. Hell, if I made that much money, I would gladly pay higher taxes.

So, if these tax cuts must happen under the auspices that extra money in the pockets of the richest 2% will trickle down to the rest of us, then perhaps there should at least be some stipulations.

Give rich people their damn tax cuts. But I suggest that for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, their tax cut should come in the form of a “voucher.” Kind of like a food stamp. Some basic rules:
  1. The tax cut comes in the form of vouchers (kind of like Monopoly money) and cannot be redeemed for cash. It only has value when it is given to a business or person to be redeemed by the government. People might say, “oh no, that person’s paying with rich stamps!!” But the stamps will be converted to cash from any bank that had received a government bailout.
  2. The tax cut a.k.a “rich stamps” cannot be invested, or put into a savings account.
  3. Rich stamps cannot be used to purchase stocks, bonds, mutual funds, derivatives or any other piece of intangible Wall Street tomfoolery
  4. Rich stamps cannot be gifted to a family member
  5. Rich stamps cannot be donated to your favorite GOP candidate or any political party, but can be donated to charitable non-political organizations.
  6. Rich stamps expire in 12 months. This makes sense as it has been argued that the wealthiest Americans are living hand to mouth and need this assistance to survive. Also, it has been argued that these vouchers are necessary to stimulate the US economy.
  7. If a participant does not redeem all the stamps within a year, the money is returned to the government and the person is sent a medal and considered to be a great patriot.
Here are some useful suggestions for how to use your tax cut voucher:
  1. Buy American!
  2. Purchase art from your local neighborhood starving artist
  3. Buy groceries, cookware, clothing, massages, dance lessons, memberships to the gym, books, videos, movies, dinner, dessert
  4. Drop it in the jar of your local homeless person
  5. Donate to a food bank
  6. Use it on botox treatments, get a spray-tan, get your nails done, buy a garish purse with designer labels all over it, seek counseling for your angry poodle
  7. Use it for health: visit the dentist, get that deluxe colon cleansing, get that diagnostic test that your insurance won’t cover, remove that melanoma, buy some free-range meat products and loads of organic vegetables. Buy a tote bag to put all your delicious vegetables in. Take a pilates class.
  8. Have a dinner party and invite all of your friends. Hire a caterer!
  9. Give your butler a large bonus. Gift your maid with a day at the spa. Buy your nanny a new cell phone.
  10. See a play! Gift your local theater company or favorite museum!
  11. Visit some national parks!
  12. Purchase a space heater for your neighbors who are freezing
  13. Get a new computer
  14. Buy a hybrid car made in the USA (if there is one). Put some fancy rims on it! Buy some new tires!
  15. Send it to soldiers who are on their 3rd rotation in Iraq.
  16. Invest in music lessons
  17. Put some new tuneage on that ipod
  18. Cultivate a hobby or two
  19. Buy some beers for your friends
  20. Tip your waiter more than 12%
  21. Purchase some business casual clothes that don’t make you look like a dork.
The possibilities are endless!!!

I hope that you join me in pushing for the rich stamps program.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

From West to East

After living in Los Angeles for eleven years, I moved back to Chicago in 2005. “West to East” is inspired by this transition. I started the piece in a sketchbook back in LA as a simple painting of a rooster in the mountains. Many of my drawings start as a chicken or rooster. I can’t exactly say why I do this beyond the bird being a portal into accessing my inner drawing-world. Like a meditation, prayer or ritual, the process of drawing a rooster seems to open a door to emotions or sentiments that I might be reticent to share in any other way. The drawing has morphed into different things over the past years and I finally appropriated it into a larger work.

It’s not until you leave a place or a person that you realize how much that place and person meant to you, and how things will never quite be the same in your new life.

I lived with my sister, Ginger, in Los Angeles for 9 years. We had a great time. We lived in a semi-dilapidated upper floor of a duplex in the lovely Silverlake hills west of downtown LA. Hidden behind a house and with stunning mountain views, our little rustic apartment, dubbed “the cabin,” doubled as an art and music studio. 1920’s stucco charm, wood floors, arches, high ceilings, and a scenic view masqueraded the decay slowly consuming the foundation of the sinking structure, not to mention a missing support beam in the “garage.” We never had cold water in the kitchen sink, and lived without air conditioning or reliable heat. The shower was nutzy and we had a mold problem. We felt every earthquake tremor, as the wobbly building magnified the shakes.

Accessible by 2 narrow flights of stairs down, and another one up, our place was open to the world-- the front door usually unlocked, with all the windows and door open to let night-blooming jasmine perfume in, as well as a gang of neighbor cats, on a regular basis. Joking about the eccentricities of the apartment became a creative sport, like playing the dozens-- that was better than searching for a new place and moving, or actually fixing the problems.

Most of the residents of the duplex agreed that a friendly ghost resides in the building. One afternoon we were hanging out in the garden area on the first floor, chatting with the neighbors and the apartment maintenance guy, Catui. “The ghost doesn’t like the mens,” Catui declared, puzzling over the fact that Ginger and I were both unmarried. I denied the ghost’s existence, and was seized with a sudden coughing fit so severe that I had to drink straight from a bottle of Robitussin. Never again did I denounce the ghost. Ever.

Of all the wildlife we coexisted with, including the ghost, squirrels, rats, raccoons, skunks and coyote, my favorite outdoor pets were the night birds. LA is quiet at night. For being a large city with a lot of life, the silverlake hills were silent after 9 pm. A night owl, I would retire to my bed around 2 am and listen to the night birds sing their songs for a half hour or so, just thinking... thinking... and slowly drifting off to sleep.

Those birds will always remind me of the freedom Ginger and I felt living in that once grand, rent-controlled, crumbling structure that was our home. We had few material luxuries beyond a computer, TV, two cellos and a boombox, but it didn’t matter. Self-employed, struggling, young, alive. Those were good times.

When I moved back to Chicago, I needed a day-job that could pay the bills and provide some decent benefits. BOOM. I’m surrounded by people who have been thinking about retirement since the age of 21. 401 Ks, life insurance, flu-shots-- corporations sure know how to direct one’s thoughts to their own mortality and stages of inevitable destruction. I may not have much to fall back on during hard times, but I wouldn’t trade 15 year of my life not worrying about that shit for anything.

Chicago is a different beast than LA. While I feel like I gave up a certain communion with nature by leaving LA, I acquired a community, in exchange. It took me a good year to assimilate back into the urban world. The first months, I felt claustrophobic and mildly anxious while sharing a subway with hundreds of others, stuffed like sardines. While you can insulate yourself from other people in LA, and drive away from some uncomfortable situations, you are forced to contend with your neighbors in Chicago. Soon, the yuppies, gang-bangers, crazy-people, homeless, artists, musicians, Cubs fans, Sox fans, immigrants, drag-queens, senior citizens, children, dogs, squirrels all become people and creatures you live with. Closely. And I like that, most of the time...

My family links me to both LA and Chicago. I miss my bi-coastal sisters terribly, and we talk every couple of days on the telephone, and visit throughout the year in either LA, Chicago or New York. My parents live here, and I’ve had the joy of spending time with them. I’m pleased to say that unlike a lot of senior citizens, they seem to get more progressive with each year that passes, instead of becoming more conservative, clinging to the despair manufactured by right-wing television pundits, like a lot of older folks. My parents make me really proud.

I don’t hear night birds anymore. But if I ride my bike out to Lake Michigan, I listen to the sound of seagulls. Pigeons are ubiquitous, but eagle-eyed seagulls have the brains to find the food, even a mile away from water. Their call is the sound of the sea. I love the water. When I listen to them, I think of the distance that separates people I love from me. The seagulls' soulful, melancholy call is music that that makes me happy to be alive in this weird world.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Useless Anxiety

Life is beautiful. And absurd.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mammoth Zine Challenge Extravaganza Extraordinaire

Months ago, I attempted to create a zine for the very first time. In years past, I had constructed a few pages, noodled with formats, wrote text and sent my ideas into outer-space where they orbited my consciousness for years, with no hope of a lunar landing or moonwalk.

Last March, the fabulous Mike Kelley of Junc Gallery recruited me to produce a zine for the Silverlake Jubilee zine extravaganza in Los Angeles, and used one of my drawings as the image that represents the show. I had to finish a zine. And what a challenge this was. I have mountains of respect for self-publishers of all stripes. Creating a zine is a labor of love. A mental and physical challenge. There are no agents, art directors, editors, production staff or marketing executives calling the shots. DIY, all the way.

In evaluating my own attempt, "Tales of the Subterranean: Anatomy of Sock Puppets," I understand how the majority of humanity might be completely disinterested in this story. I get it. The learning curve on this project was steep, deep and curly. Typos and production issues aside, fashioning a compelling story is the greatest challenge of all, and let's just say that I've got a lot of work to do. That being said, this little booklet includes a sock puppet anatomy lesson, scholarly commentary, and an abridged history of puppets in America. You may find this subject matter to be compelling. Or you might be disappointed. Perhaps a little of both.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this zine, please contact me at juliakmurphy@yahoo.com and I will send you a copy.