Fluorescent vertigo and the repose of pure color

What drives Gregory Thielker and Alexandra Pacula? Their styles of oil painting are shaped by photography and filtered through car windows. Both pay homage to an instrument praised for transparently rendering reality—yet their paintings withhold the straightforward picture you would expect. They like to place obstacles between the observer and observed. Thielker chooses rain, bringing photorealistic detail to drenched windshields, an everyday scenario where unmediated vision might actually save your life. Pacula, by contrast, chooses a style of blurring that mimics the woozy smears of long-exposed film. These artists tilt representation toward abstraction, one extracting vitality from stillness and silence, the other turning the commotion of real life into the repose of pure color.

Gregory Thielker shows us a world lighted less by the sun than by the red glare of brake lights and traffic lights. It’s an overcast, halted place. Here everything—which is to say, nothing—seems to occur under rain clouds or the cover of nightfall. If we’re not waiting on the road, we’re in parking lots. This inert realm outside the vehicle is refracted through patterns of rainwater: waxy droplets, lattices, and sheets of rippling liquid. Thielker’s lyrically fractured vision lends a sense of mystery and activity, a fugitive spark of life, to the quiet routine of a country locked in its own cars.

Alexandra Pacula gazes outward from a quintessentially New York point of view: a taxicab window. She presents a sunless setting, too, though in her images we find more headlights, neon signage, and peeks into brightly lit interiors. Lights, in other words, that approach us and invite us in. Little can be seen clearly because the passage of time blurs and bends the scenes like memories. Clarity doesn’t attract Pacula. She prefers the delights of the deceiving mind—and camera. Watching the glow of storefronts and passing cars and street lamps melt into twitchy trails of color, after all, one thinks of long-exposure photographs and their disloyalty to reality. Her paintings likewise rebel. They side against the frenzy and fluorescent vertigo of the city at night, rebuilding blandly busy moments as absolute visual spaces into which the beholder can escape.


every now and then

Last Saturday, I tried to jump across a puddle and my phone fell out of my pocket and directly into the water so I finally gave in and upgraded to an iPhone 3G.

Pros: I can play Tetris, listen to music, and take pictures.
Cons: BJ wins & I’ve already used 65% of my data plan after 3(!!!) days.

We’ll see how well I can keep it updated, but BJ set up a twitter account awhile ago, and I’ll be posting photos every now and then from my phone there.

fail better

With the help of a broken dining chair seat that I’m using as a portable workstation (thanks, Ikea), I’ve been finding a little bit of time in the evening to finish a series of 15 small watercolor paintings that will hopefully form part of a larger collection of new work.

With the start of the new year, and with BJ and I more actively contemplating our future, I need to push harder to make time to pursue our creative projects. We really can’t foresee what next year will bring, although our plans continue to multiply—and sometimes, as intimidating as it is to get your work shown or to sell your work, there’s no reason to keep postponing our own work. And if we fail, we just try again, and fail better.


It’s been over a year since my last haircut, and my hair was getting a little out of control. I made a last-minute appointment at Blue Mambo Friday, and asked for 3 inches off. Now I feel renewed. Unfortunately, my blow-drying talents are limited, so my hair won’t be this tame or smooth for a while.

Birds on our drive back home.

dashing out the door

Thanks Megan for the tag. This offered a welcome, much-needed break from my work last night + a relaxing assignment before bed. Proportions are totally not to scale and coloring’s a little haphazard, but here ya go!

  1. Tart Lip Stain in Charmed: I’m usually dashing out the door in the morning and this adds just a touch of color. I bought it for my wedding and have been using it ever since.
  2. Cetaphil: moisturizes dry skin, works wonders, doesn’t smell like obscure tropical flowers.
  3. Work ID: an important accessory to separate me from the students + it’s nice to go to the faculty rest room without being stopped/interrogated!
  4. Lunch bag: school lunches are pretty gross. Jamie Oliver hasn’t revolutionized our district’s lunch program … yet. I picked a few of these up from the Marc Jacobs store during our NY trip for 5 bucks. It’s insulated, not so clunky, and can double as a camera bag.
  5. Clipboard: where I keep my to-do lists and important papers for the day

I’m going to tag my little sister, Thuy, in hopes that she updates her blog soon!

Update: Thuy’s 5 picks

Tinsel icicles and watercolor bunny

  • Les Givral’s nest of 2×4’s. BJ and I were craving their bbq pork & pâté banh mi .
  • Barney’s Co-op is closing their Houston store. I bought one Richard Chai LOVE hooded parka for my sister Thuy and one for me. The drape and details are nice with plenty of room for layering. Plus you can’t beat a deal that is almost 90% off!
  • The weather is finally feeling like winter! I think the decorations will have to stay up a little longer.
  • Tinsel icicles on clearance + washi tape = a Confetti System-inspired project.
  • This watercolor portrait of Baby Bunny is a present from Julia made with the Christmas presents we gave her. I love her background!

Bedside reading

The deadlines at work are constantly changing and getting back into the routine has been tough, especially since I got so comfortable staying up ’til 2 during the holiday break. To relax, I took a mini break and did a quick pen-and-watercolor drawing of my bedside reading. My Secret Santa gave me the top two. I’m loving them all!

  • Illusive: Contemporary Illustration P.3. A great source of inspiration, featuring some of my favorite illustrators, like Andrew Bannecker and Pietari Posti (pining for one of his posters in the shop)
  • Irving Penn Portraits: Solid reproductions. Iconic. B. waved goodbye to him here. I hope I pick up the camera more this year.
  • On Beauty: I’m so grateful that I got to see Zadie Smith. Now I can hear her voice when I read her words, and it lends them that amusing, charming lightness you find when you listen to her. Yay for $1 Sunday sidewalk sales. I promised BJ I’d finish it since I have bad (not as bad as his. heh) habits of abandoning books halfway.
  • Lula #11: Pleased to see a piece with Jenny Lewis + loved Elle Fanning’s spread. Borders on Kirby has at least 10 copies left & Issues has one or two.

Winter break

We had a full winter break with a lot of family in town, meals at different houses, and plenty of cute kids to keep us entertained—especially this butterball. Now, I can’t help but wake up feeling anxious + grumpy about the work I have yet to do before heading back to school. It’s something I have to work on. Before I start my (hopefully productive) day, here are a few pictures of what we’ve been up to lately.

Filling up on AKA Sushi and flipping through the 3×3 Illustration annual (which made a great present for the little sis). ¶ Lunch and bold beverages at Empire Cafe. ¶ Leftover pie from our pre-New Year house party. We should call it the Old Year Party. Certainly we’ve never had so many people, and “bacon candy,” at our place. ¶ Visiting Kaboom Books and chatting with their owners, where we scored Area for 12 bucks. Also, falling in love with their dogs: a charming pair of Hungarian pointers a/k/a Viszlas. ¶ Finally cleared the moving boxes out of the living room and found a place for my new Lena Corwin pillow from Jackie(!). ¶ Visited the antique shop across Empire Cafe and bought two super-sturdy school (say that 3x) chairs originally from Dayton I.S.D.