Category Archives: Trip Planning

Packing it all in

As I write this blog tonight, I am sitting in the airport in San Francisco, waiting for about 2 1/2 hours before my almost 24 hour flight to Bali (via Taipei).  Wow! That’s a long time.

Perks ready to mail! (No one got to pick their own nose.)
Perks ready to mail! (No one got to pick their own nose.)

I’ve been up to a lot over the past few weeks. I celebrated the holidays. I wrapped up some projects at Oregon Children’s Theatre. I got all of my noses and masks that people earned as perks packed and mailed.

My boyfriend double checked my packing.  He made sure I had enough bags, he advised on packing strategy, and he even took the time to count the tiles in my newly acquired vintage travel version of Scrabble. ( I was missing and “e” or two, as well as an “s”). He also had me photograph all I was taking. He is a good man, and thorough.

My
My
Pack
Pack
List
List

Next Up: San Francisco! I returned to  this lovely city for a few days before  my flight to Bali.  Upon recommendation of the guy next to me on the airplane, I went to see the David Hockney exhibit at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.  He had many beautiful drawings, paintings and videos exploring the same location in England over all the seasons of the year. There were also numerous portraits throughout the show. Some of his drawings were aided by the use of the camera lucida, which Hockney theorizes was one of the technological aids that helped the old Masters paint such realistic portraits (read more on that here).

Mr. Hockney provides the side-by-side comparisons of his use of the camera lucida to that of drawings by Ingres.
Mr. Hockney provides the side-by-side comparisons of his use of the camera lucida to that of drawings by Ingres.

This experience reminded me a bit of one of my favorite books about comics, Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.  In this book, McCloud writes a lot about how meaning and story are constructed through the juxtaposition of images– and furthermore, about how the human brain understands these images.  He connects this to the role of abstraction in art.

For example, McCloud asserts that when we see the faces of others, we see all the details—and those details help us discern the faces as unique and individual. However, when we think of our own faces, we rarely think of the details, but instead stick with a general sense of placement: my mouth is about here… my eyes are basically there… etc.

From Understanding Comics, © Scott McCloud
From Understanding Comics, © Scott McCloud

I have often found this true with abstract  or simple masks, or with puppets. The audience adds a lot to the performance when given a simple shape vs lots of details. Both ideas are quite interesting to pursue, and I have used both aspects of this principle in my work.

Humans seem to have difficulty not seeing faces. We project our experience everywhere, making faces wherever we go. To wit, here are some pics from trip in the Bay area this weekend.

Some sinks show surprise naturally.
Some sinks show surprise naturally.
An electrical socket charged with surprise and ...fear?
An electrical socket charged with surprise and …fear?

And now it is time to take flight to Bali!

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Eight is Enough

I’ll be on the plane to Bali in just eight days!  As I consult with my boyfriend, a seasoned international traveler, for the best things to bring, he of course mentions a towel. And naturally, I cannot help but think of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

Sound advice from Ford Prefect.
Sound advice from Ford Prefect.

I’m sure if I’m together enough to remember where my towel is at all times, I’ll present the image of someone who is ready to explore the world.

As I consider what to bring with me, I’m also looking forward to what things await. I am so looking forward to beginning my training!  After a couple of days of orientation to the area, settling into our accommodations, etc.,  we begin!  Here’s what I’ve been told about my mask-carving teacher:

“Nyoman Setiawan comes from a family of mask carvers; his father, Regug, is a famous carver featured in a number of photo books on Balinese art and masks. Both of them live in a small village near Batuan, which is home to many famous dancers and carvers. Setiawan has made masks for Theatre du Soleil in France, for Dell’Arte International in Blue Lake, CA, and for many other performers and companies. He is equally at home carving traditional masks or taking on creative challenges from those who come with special orders. He teaches at his own studio as well as at Pondok Pecak, a library and cultural center offering lessons in dance, carving, language, etc in the center of Ubud. He is currently mayor of his village, and his daughter is one of the stars of the Balinese sprinting team.”

How awesome is it that he’s both the mayor and a mask maker?! I’ve always thought it important as an artist to maintain a lively connection to community and daily life. This belief has followed me through my work in AmeriCorps with Heart of the Beast in Minneapolis, to my study of “theatre of place” at Dell’Arte, to performing free original mask comedies in the parks of NYC with Under the Table, to working as a teaching artist in public schools, and then to working for the Educational Theatre Program at Oregon Children’s Theatre.  That my teacher serves as both an artist and community leader seems to hint at what I’ve already been told about the way of life in Bali: art and life are inseparable.

The mangosteen.
The mangosteen.

And what is life without food? For many years I have heard my friend Abigael, an amazing chef, reference the mangosteen in a plaintive, yearning tone. It’s a fruit from SE Asia which is very difficult to find in its fresh form in North American markets. Apparently the threat of the Asian fruit fly is to blame for its relative scarcity.

Rambutan means "hairy" in Indonesian and Malay
Rambutan means “hairy” in Indonesian and Malay

I am also pretty interested in tasting the rambutan. This fruit is similarly rare to find fresh, as it only ripens while on the tree. The Lonely Planet guidebook sums up the fruit as “hairy and scary on the outside, sweet and juicy on the inside.” Although both can be sometimes found dried or in syrup, some allege that the fruits must be eaten in their native equatorial zone to be fully appreciated.  I’m super excited to try them both out!

But with eight days left in the States, I have supplies to purchase, affairs to settle, and towels to locate. That will be just enough time.

Many, Yet One

I'll be based near Ubud.
I’ll be based near Ubud.

Indonesia is a nation made up of many islands –17,508 islands. However, only about 6,000 are inhabited. The country is second only to Brazil in its biodiversity. In short, there’s a lot of potential differences rolled into one country.  This is reflected in the national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika — which translates into “Unity Through Diversity” (or literally, “Many, Yet One”).

Growing up in a large family, I can sort of relate.

My initial reading list.
My initial reading list.

The official language is Bahasa Indonesia. According to my phrasebook, the words amok, cockatoo, and orang-utan are all borrowed from this language. Even the bar up the street from my house in Portland seems to have some relation. It’s called Tiga, which happens to be the number 3 in Indonesian. And –no surprise– there is more than one language spoken in this island country.  There are 700 local languages, including Balinese.

Duapuluh satu days before I arrive- that’s just 21!

One month away!

indonesia-bali-map

I started this blog to chronicle my 2014 trip to Bali — and it’s almost here! In just 30 days, I will be flying from San Francisco to Taipei, and then from Taipei to Bali.  When I travel, even small distances, the reality of the event hits me when I get in the car or approach the ticketing counter at the airport. Sometimes I don’t even pack until the day I’m leaving. This time, however, it seems like the month I have left to prepare is just barely enough to get it all done.

IMG_2259
Balinese character mask. Crooked teeth are signs of comic characters.
Balinese monkey mask. This one has a movable jaw!
Balinese monkey mask. This one has a movable jaw!

I am going to Bali for an intensive month of study in the arts of traditional wooden mask carving and topeng (Balinese masked dance).  I will also have periodic classes in kecak (the monkey chant), Alexander Technique, and yoga; and symposia on the similarities between Western and Balinese mask traditions. This program is offered through the Dell’Arte International School of Blue Lake, CA. I like the the way that it’s structured to allow you to study masks from both sculptural and performative points of view.

It’s so exciting to be able to immerse myself in study and in a new culture!

This is a long-awaited opportunity. I have been working as a mask-maker the last 10 years. Most of the last 8 years have been in Portland, Oregon. I have spent that time creating masks for a variety of theatre and dance companies, and each collaboration has brought new ideas into the mix. I’m proud of the work I’ve done. I also feel ready for a bigger push, one that can help me find my way to the next level. I feel ready to study under a master.

But for now, I have to pack.

                                                        Me in Character Mask