Thursday, January 30, 2014

February Happening: Poemflowers!

Check out this fabulous image of a paper flower workshop from 1765 by
Robert Benard nach G. R. Lucolle. This is totally what the Museum will
look like while we're preparing for Poemflowers: A Happening.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here at the Museum we regard Valentine's Day with a great deal of suspicion. Now, we do like love. Love is wonderful. But Valentine's Day is a stressful, demeaning, often dispiriting holiday for many people, and we don't like that at all.

So we're going to hack your heart day. Just a little bit.

Imagine that you, dear reader, are walking down the street and someone hands you a flower. And that flower turns out to be made out of a poem. A love poem. A love poem for you, the unknown passer-by. Because we all fall in love with strangers sometime. Because you deserve a love poem just for being part of the lonely and glorious and painful world we're all falling in and out of love with all the time.

In the days leading up to the 14th, we're asking all the talented people we know to write love poems for strangers. We're going to take those poems and we're going to turn them into paper flowers. And we're going to hand them out by the bucketload to strangers in the street on February 14th.

And we'd love it if you helped. Interested in taking part in Poemflowers: A Happening? Write a love poem to a stranger and email it to us here on or before February 6th and we'll print it out, fold it up, and give it away. We'll also be posting paper-flower-folding tutorials on our Facebook page in coming days, and if you want make your own flowers and get dressed up and give gifts to strangers too, wherever you happen to be, why, we'd be honored to have you join us. (Let us know if you're near our base in San Francisco and we'll make sure you can come along with us!)

We don't hate Valentine's Day. We just hate how many people don't get to celebrate or feel celebrated. So we're coming out to show you some love -- yes you, the stranger, the unknown, the face in the crowd, the person we smile at on the train, the person we're too nervous to smile at on the train. So if someone hands you a flower on the 14th, take it. Keep it. Enjoy it. Because we're a little in love with you.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

extra/ordinary: an online exhibition

Friends and fellow conspirators in the pursuit of wonder, I am really delighted to announce the opening of a new online exhibition here at the Museum of Joy. extra/ordinary is a pairing of works by photographer Laura Mason and poet Thea Henney around the theme of the fragmentary moments when something completely ordinary suddenly seems to be more. Please feel free to peruse it here.

Laura's photography was the original inspiration for the exhibition. She's in the habit of posting shots on her Facebook page that regularly startle and arrest me with their transformative framing of absolutely everyday things: a cement wall, a dead flower, a mason jar, a window, all of them caught in a moment where they seem - because of the light, the mood, a certain color? - to be suddenly alive and vivid in a way I don't expect such mundane objects to be.  Her images echoed those glimpses of the same strange luminousness that I've stumbled upon in my own life, times when things that are not ordinarily beautiful act like windows onto a wilder and deeper world for no apparent reason other than sometimes the universe is like that.

Those transcendent flickers are, for me, a huge part of the experience of joy. I think of joy as something that descends upon me from above, catching me off guard, drenching me like a sudden storm and then moving on, elsewhere, leaving me damp and surprised and still smelling the earth long after the thunder is already booming away into the west. When I asked Laura if she would be interested in putting together a selection of her works for a show on everyday moments of beauty, I was already thinking of Thea's work, because her poetry has always struck me as analogous to Laura's imagemaking in the way it captures an almost accidental glimpse of the everyday as it becomes, momentarily, extraordinary. The photos Laura chose for the exhibition all have the feeling of being captured in mid-step, as if she was on her way to something else when she noticed that the world around her was a little more beautiful than it had any right to be in such a mundane moment. Her images are all of things easily overlooked and quickly lost: a double reflection in a puddle, the shape of a curtain in the breeze. Likewise, in Thea's poems the poet appears suddenly paused by something at the very edges of her vision: she is surprised, almost puzzled, by the specific richness of feeling of the world outside her bed, the prints in the snow, the unraveling universe inside the human heart. Her lines carry the same sense of discovery - not of something large and glorious, but of something small and quiet, an almost private loveliness. What is enticing about these works is how tiny a thing it is that their creators are caught on, and the intricacy and depth of the minute worlds they uncover. There is a sense that they were almost never seen at all, and the very fact that they are here in front of us is due only to marvelous and poignant chance.

It is an honor to invite you to take a walk in the world of these photos and poems.
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